Earnings season is in full swing and so far results have gone as expected.
According to Factset, 67% of the S&P 500 companies that have reported have beat the mean EPS estimate and 52% have beat the mean revenue estimate. This isn’t a huge surprise as most quarters see companies beat earnings around that clip(67% in EPS beat and 53% revenue beat are the 5-year average for the S&P 500).
The Q4 growth rate now is estimated to be 5% versus an estimate of 3.1% as of December 31st which is good to see as growth is the true engine that drives market appreciation.
Assuming this holds it will also the first time the index will see q/q growth in two consecutive quarters since Q4 ’14 and Q1’15.
For all of 2016, the S&P is expected to see earnings growth of 0.5% and revenue growth of 2.4%. That’s not great in my mind and I’m hoping for a better 2017 if this hot market wants to keep chugging along.
There were a lot of earnings call this last month and a lot of discussion was around policies the new government might implement that will hopefully spur earnings like a new tax policy and fewer regulations for certain industries.
I think the market sees a lot of those as a catalyst for growth but it’s not clear when those will be implemented and if the benefit will really spur 2017 or if it’ll fall more into 2018 results.
As far as expectations go, 82 companies so far have issued guidance for Q1 2017 and 57 of them were negative. This may sound bad but isn’t out of the norm(5-year average is 74% negative) as companies prefer to set expectations lower so they can beat on the back end.
Still, this is a reactive market which has shown how punishing it can be when guidance/performance is lower than expected with companies like UnderArmour, Gilead Sciences and HanesBrands taking huge hits. On the other side, it has also rewarded handsomely those that perform well as seen by the recent surge in companies like Hasbro and Activision.
Overall, analysts are still optimistic about 2017 with projected earnings growth of 10.3% and revenue growth of 5.6%. I’ve mentioned before how analysts are often too optimistic as 2016 projects had us pegged at a 7% growth rate and we ended up close to flat.
It seems like the market still holds out hope that the analysts are right(and/or doesn’t care because there’s no great alternatives) as the S&P has continued to do well in the past month with a 2% increase since the last update.
It’s hard to gauge this market right now and a lot of future performance might depend on 2017 earnings. The market continues to price in pretty aggressive growth compared to what we have experienced in the past few years(no growth) and if that doesn’t materialize then we could be in for some pain.
We’re certainly entering a riskier period in the investment cycle when you consider some of these high valuations. Low interest rates and lack of alternative investments makes it more difficult to analyze these in a historical context but higher valuations generally affect long-term returns negatively.
I have no certainty that the market won’t just keep going up especially if earnings growth materializes so there’s no change to my investment thesis but I do understand people who get worried when they see this type of stock market appreciation without any material growth to support it.
I’ll be watching earnings closely and looking to pick up some values if any emerge. Work is slow right now so I have plenty of time to read earnings releases and follow the market which I quite like doing!
I haven’t been overly active in buying anything as my set it and forget strategy works well in markets like this one where individual values are hard to stomach.
Maybe I’m too conservative these days as a lot of companies I’ve liked and thought about buying have surged after earnings. I could kick myself about missing these opportunities but I feel like I also have a good strategy in place that allows me to benefit from market appreciation while optimizing my risk profile.
The market seems risky to me right now and while I certainly don’t want to exit it because it might keep growing, I’d rather be invested in a way where I’m spreading my risk across a bunch of securities versus just one. Yes if the market tanks then everything will tank in one way or another and I’m potentially missing out on upside by not sticking to certain securities but it’s a risk profile that fits my personality and I’m not all that eager to change it anytime soon.
That doesn’t mean I won’t buy any individual stocks(it is one of my 2017 goals after all) but it’ll have to be a really solid value for me to consider it.
The good news is that my portfolio has continued to grow and I’ve continued to funnel money into my accounts so I’ll take continued appreciation any day if the market gives it to me and hope for improving earnings to make sure it stays that high.
Let’s take a look at the portfolio this month. Continue reading “My portfolio – February update”