David Gaffen

David Gaffen’s Profile

Earnings Coming Up Roses…Or Not

July 22, 2009

How do those green shoots look now?The market got all a-giddy last week after Intel (INTC.O) and Goldman Sachs (GS.N) (a barometer of nothing other than its own ability to navigate turbulent markets) posted better than expected earnings, but the latest round of earnings reports points mostly to the ability of companies to tighten their belts to anorexic levels.

The Street celebrated when Caterpillar (CAT.N) reported earnings Tuesday, but the euphoria leaked out of the early market rally when investors got a second glance. Sales looked terrible as demand has plunged. They, along with Intel, Coca-Cola (KO.N), UTX (UTX.N) and others, are all using China as a crutch right now, thanks to that country’s massive stimulus package. But building earnings strength on hopes that governments will continue to spend money isn’t a winning strategy for years to come.

Meanwhile, the second quarter is emerging as a repeat of the first – applause for better-than-expected results, even if the surprises mostly come as a result of cutting jobs. According to Brown Brothers Harriman, 105 S&P companies have reported earnings as of this morning. Just 27 have reported positive year-over-year revenue growth – but 36 have reported positive earnings growth. In addition, when financials are removed from the picture, companies, on the whole, are falling short of sales expectations, with an average miss of 0.9 percentage points, but beating earnings expectations by 9.2 percentage points.

And yet, stocks continue their winning ways, with the Nasdaq threatening to make it 11 days in a row. Some believe this increases the chance that the market will correct, and violently so, when the gains can no longer be sustained. It may take until the third quarter to find out whether we’ve got an Ethel Merman market – everything’s coming up roses – or a Lt. Hurwitz market, which just thinks it’s Ethel Merman.

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