Earnings season is in focus, but one sector could serve up a big surprise

Oil Rig, Operator
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The next couple of weeks will be heavy with quarterly earnings reports across all sectors.

So far, just over 6 percent of the S&P 500 has reported quarterly earnings, with a blended growth in reported earnings of nearly 7 percent, per FactSet estimates. The largest year-over-year growth can be found in the energy sector, with earnings growth of over 300 percent. Of course, the group started from a very, very low base last year.

Behind energy, technology companies thus far have reported a 10 percent growth year over year in its earnings per share. Just two sectors — consumer discretionary and utilities — have thus far posted a decline year over year in earnings growth.

And while earnings will be the focus for investors and strategists alike, what would really surprise the consensus would be a breakout in energy stocks primarily driven not by earnings but by the price of crude oil.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil last week made its first "higher low" of the year, and is now testing its 50-day moving average of $46.67. Now, should both WTI crude oil and the Energy Select Sector SPDR fund (XLE) break above their respective 50-day moving averages, that could and should lead to a decent rally in the group.

On a more granular level, the 50-day moving average on the XLE has proven very tough resistance since April. A rally in the group would also be helped along by some short-covering in the beaten-down group.

Sure, we readily admit that there are a lot of "ifs" in this scenario, but the potential is certainly there for a breakout. We have to wait for both the XLE and its underlying commodity to break key resistance before we can get excited about this possibility.

However, it's something that few people are prepared for, so it could shake things up if our scenario does indeed play out.

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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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