Stocks will try this week to break the all-time highs set earlier in the year as a slew of S&P 500 companies get set to report earnings.
The S&P 500 is around 1% below its all-time high. The index got a lift last week after a big chunk of companies posted better-than-expected earnings. It was also boosted by improving sentiment around Brexit and U.S.-China trade negotiations.
The all-time high could be tested as about 120 S&P 500 companies, or around 24%, are scheduled to release their quarterly results this week. Those companies include Caterpillar and Boeing, both of which are expected to report Wednesday morning. Amazon, Intel, McDonald's and Chipotle Mexican Grill are also on deck for the week.
"You've got the potential for a combination of things that drive us to new highs," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. "At the same time you're getting better micro data in the earnings, you're getting better news on the macro hurdles facing us."
More than 14% of S&P 500 companies have reported through Friday, FactSet data shows. Of those companies, 81% posted earnings that beat analyst expectations.
J.P. Morgan Chase's report on Tuesday sent the stock to an all-time high while Citigroup and Bank of America also got boosts from their earnings releases. Netflix briefly rallied around 7% Thursday before ending the session up 2.5%. Morgan Stanley advanced 1.5% on earnings. Coca-Cola climbed more than 1% on Friday after releasing its quarterly numbers.
To be sure, the companies are being rated on a very low bar this earnings season. Analysts polled by FactSet expected third-quarter earnings to have fallen by 4.6%.
"Earnings can be a positive catalyst to the extent that expectations are pretty low," said Dan Russo, chief market strategist at Chaikin Analytics. "The bar has been lowered to the point where companies can jump over it."
But investors might have a harder time digesting the week's reports.
Companies such as Caterpillar are heavily affected by the U.S.-China trade war given their exposure to overseas markets. Boeing and Intel also have overseas exposure. Meanwhile, reports from companies such as Amazon, McDonald's and Chipotle will be heavily scrutinized as investors look for clues on how the consumer is doing.
"Trade frictions and the global economic slowdown have clearly affected 2019 earnings growth thus far," Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, said in a note. "The third-quarter earnings reporting season will likely confirm that those negatives continued to pour over into last quarter's results."
The good news for investors is recent trade talks appear to have yielded some progress. President Donald Trump announced Oct. 11 the U.S. and China had reached a "very substantial phase one" deal. Multiple reports last week said China wants additional talks before signing off on the first phase, but National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Thursday there is "a lot of momentum" to finalize the deal.
John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington Private Bank, said the "narrative" around trade had gotten "so one-sided to the negative side, there may be a better chance than not that a phase-one deal is signed."
Preliminary figures on consumer sentiment showed a slight increase in October from September. The final consumer sentiment numbers for the month are scheduled for release on Friday.
"If corporate earnings show signs of resilience, especially by the U.S. consumer, then a run to new highs is by no means out of the question," Tom Essaye, founder of The Sevens Report, said in a note.
Earnings before the bell: Halliburton, SAP, Lenox Intl., PetMed Express
Earnings after the bell: Cadence Designs, Celanese, TD Ameritrade, Zions Bancorp (530p cc)
8:30 a.m. Philadelphia Fed nonmanufacturing (Oct)
10 a.m. Existing Home sales (Sept)
Earnings before the bell: Biogen, Lockheed Martin, McDonald's, NextEra Energy, Novartis, Procter & Gamble, Travelers, UBS, United Tech, UPS
Earnings after the bell: Texas Instruments, Canadian Natl. Railway, Chipotle Mexican Grill, CoStar, Discover Fincl., Equity Residential, Snap, Whirlpool
7 a.m. Weekly mortgage applications
10:30 a.m. EIA weekly inventories report
Earnings before the bell: Boeing, Boston Scientific, Caterpillar, Daimler, Eli Lilly, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Blackstone, Freeport-McMoRan, General Dynamics, Hilton, Invesco, LG Display, Nasdaq OMX, Norfolk Southern
Earnings after the bell: eBay, Ford Motor, Microsoft, PayPal, Tesla
8:30 a.m. Weekly jobless claims
8:30 a.m. Durable goods orders (Sept)
9:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI (Oct flash)
9:45 a.m. Services PMI (Oct flash)
10 a.m. New Home sales (Sept)
Earnings before the bell: 3M, AstraZeneca, Comcast, Danaher, Dow, Equinor, Raytheon
Earnings after the bell: Amazon.com, Gilead Sciences, Intel, Vale, Visa
10 a.m. Consumer sentiment (Oct final)
Earnings before the bell: A-B InBev, Ambev, Barclays, Charter Comm., Eni, Verizon