Steer Clear Of The Ugliest Earnings Streak In Tech

Steer Clear Of The Ugliest Earnings Streak In Tech

Wall Street Daily  | Apr 21, 2017 06:34AM ET

It’s Friday in the Wall Street Daily Nation. If you’re a newbie, that means I’m skipping the long-winded analysis. Instead, I’ll let some carefully selected graphics speak for me.

We’re on the cusp of an earnings onslaught. Peak reporting season hits on April 27, when 72 S&P 500 companies report results. So I figured there’s no better place to focus our attention.

After all, nothing possesses more power to consistently move stock prices dramatically higher (or lower) than an earnings report.

We’re going to start with the ugliest, most depressing earnings trend in existence. Yes, it’s a caveat emptor situation.

Then it’s time to pivot to an opportunity hiding in a shiny, contrarian wrapper. Let’s get to it!

In Desperate Need of Reinvention

Oh, how far this tech giant has fallen!

Founded in 1911, International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) has long been synonymous with tech dominance. Nowadays? Not so much!

Case in point: The company just posted its 20th consecutive quarter of declining revenue.

S&P 1500 analyst revision spread by sector

That’s no streak to celebrate. And that’s why investors are high-tailing it for the exits.

Shares fell 5% in the immediate aftermath of the report.

Until this trend reverses, steer clear!

Thankfully, all stocks aren’t as dangerous as IBM this earnings season. Let me explain…

It Pays to Be a Contrarian

In February, I shared three charts to prove once again it pays to be contrarian.

Heading into earnings seasons, I’m convinced that we’re staring at the next situation set to become a case study in gold to prove this axiom.

You see, analysts and institutional investors are universally negative.

As The Wall Street Journal’s Chris Dieterich notes, “Stock market bulls have all but disappeared over the past six weeks as optimism wanes for swift enactment of economy-boosting tax cuts and infrastructure spending.”

In terms of specific data, look no further than analyst sentiment spreads.

Per Bespoke Investment Group, the number of negative analyst EPS revisions continues to exceed positive revisions. The spread is widest in the energy and telecom services sectors (hint, hint).

IBM's year-over-year sales growth rate

As for institutional investors, they think U.S. stocks are too expensive. In turn, the share of fund managers “underweight” U.S. stocks hit a net 20%, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest Global Fund Manager Survey.

That’s a massive 21-point swing from the reading last month and the most underweight stocks the “smart money” has been since the financial crisis.

Fund manager survey of equity valuations by region

Here’s the rub — this bearishness is coming at precisely the wrong time — right after taxes.

The Tax Man Cometh and Goeth

While the S&P 500 traditionally sucks wind heading into tax day, it typically rallies afterward, according to the latest number crunching at Bespoke.

“Equity returns have been overwhelmingly positive in the days and weeks after the tax deadline,” says Bespoke. And they’re not exaggerating.

The index posts positive returns 80% of the time the week after the tax deadline and 75% of the time in the two-week period afterward.

Talk about a post-tax day gift!

S&P performance table

So where should we be on the lookout for opportunities? In sectors where the negativity runs rampant, naturally.

Energy and telecom services top that list, as the spread between analyst expectations is the widest.

In case you’re still too nervous to bet against the crowd — I said it was profitable, not easy — take comfort in this early stat. It single-handedly justifies taking a contrarian (i.e., bullish) bent.

So far, about 60 companies in the S&P 500 have reported results.

Although early, the earnings beat rate stands at 75.4% and overall profits are on track to grow 10.8%. If these early stats hold, it would mark one of the highest beat rates and biggest profit growth rates in five years!

That’s it for this week. Be sure to let us know what you think about this column or any of our recent research by leaving a comment below.

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