Earnings season is underway.
But the positive earnings results belie a major divergence occurring in the market. While the S&P 500 has risen 20% this year, earnings growth is expected to climb by just 1% in 2019.
"We can have these divergences take place but usually not to this degree," Matt Maley, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, said on CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Tuesday. "We saw it in 2015 where we had an earnings recession — earnings went down and the stock market was flat. Well, this year we have earnings that are flat and may end up being down. … That's quite a divergence."
Maley says he has not seen a mismatch between the stock market's performance and corporate earnings as large as this in more than two decades.
"You very rarely get that kind of divergence that lasts very long. We had it to a smaller degree in 2012, and we definitely had it back in 1997, and the market continued to move higher but that of course was in the middle of a bubble," he said.
During the dot-com bubble of the '90s, valuations were driven sky-high by investors eager to buy into internet and high-growth companies. From a low in October 1998 to a peak in March 2000, the Nasdaq Composite rocketed nearly 280%. However, once that bubble burst in 2000, the index fell 79% in 18 months.
"Unless you're really looking for a big bubble here going forward, it's kind of hard to be bullish on the broad S&P. That doesn't mean that we have to have a correction or a recession or anything like that, but I do think it's means that between now and at least the election next year, stock picking and group picking is going to be the main priority," said Maley.
While earnings growth might not be anemic to nonexistent, Joule Financial President Quint Tatro says monetary policy could be enough to support a path to stock market gains.
"It's all about the 'non-QE that's really QE' that we're getting here from the Fed and you can't fight the Fed," Tatro said during the same segment.
Tatro adds that with the U.S. saying it has made progress with China on trade talks, this environment is looking especially attractive for investors.
"With what looks like China trade at least not a daily headline for the time being, that's allowing the market to breathe a sigh of relief as we've been seeing," he said. "We think that this is going to last a good while as long as we continue to see this sort of truce playing out with China. Now those headlines come back in, valuations and earnings are going to matter again very quickly and investors should be aware of that."