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Impressive Earnings Reports Provide Clarity for Investors

The big takeaway this week for traders is the impact of clarity. We learned on Monday that a lack of clarity usually has a negative impact on investor decisions, encouraging them to shed risky assets. Tuesday taught us that clarity over earnings brings them right back then.
James Hyerczyk
U.S. Equity Markets

What a relief! Finally a day when we didn’t have to watch the box all day scanning for meaningless U.S.-China trade talk headlines Yes, earnings season began with a flurry of activity on Tuesday, allowing us to focus on the reports and only the reports. It certainly made trading easier because the numbers were cut and dry. There was very little to read into, very little was left to interpretation. The reports were either bullish or bearish.

In the cash market on Tuesday, the benchmark S&P 500 Index settled at 2995.68, up 29.53 or +1.01. The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average finished at 27024.80, up 237.44 or +0.91% and the technology-driven NASDAQ Composite Index closed at 8148.71, up 100.06 or +1.27%.

The big takeaway this week for traders is the impact of clarity. We learned on Monday that a lack of clarity usually has a negative impact on investor decisions, encouraging them to shed risky assets. Tuesday taught us that clarity over earnings brings them right back then.

Since it’s “the market”, I don’t expect bullish earnings reports to line up like they did on Tuesday. We’re likely to see days featuring mixed reports. Furthermore, we’re likely to see both bearish and bullish headlines on the progress of the trade talks. For that matter, you can throw in headlines about Brexit. Since we’re coming down to the deadline set for October 30, this phenomena has been capturing its share of headlines lately. It was reported on Tuesday that upbeat news over Brexit contributed to the rally.

Investors Bullied by Headlines

As I wrote earlier, this week’s price action in the stock market has been all about the impact of clarity on an investor’s decision process. I’m sure you heard the old adage, “when in doubt, stay out” for investors looking to enter a new position, and “when in doubt, get out” when holding a position.

In my opinion, trying to keep up with the headlines is primarily behind trader indecision. Furthermore, traders have even built algorithms to generate buy and sell signals on key words. This could be the source of stock market volatility also. Additionally, even the headline writers at Bloomberg, Reuters and CNBC aren’t telling you anything useful. Most of the time the headline is late and the story is stale by the time traders act upon it.

I think you’ll have more success if you react to numbers in a report and the price action than a headline unless the headline is stating a fact. Any headline implying hope, fear or greed is dangerous.

Last week, CNBC’s Jim Cramer warned against trading stocks on the roller coaster of U.S.-China headlines. Markets are “hostage to events that are not only totally out of our hands, but totally out of the president’s hands,” Cramer said on “Squawk on the Street.”

“I am describing an unfathomable market,” declared, “where if you have conviction, you are out of your mind,” meaning fundamental cases for buying or selling are useless.

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Just the Fact Ma’am

If you’re going to trade the headlines then look for something that states a fact. On Tuesday, Reuters said, “JPMorgan Hits Record High, Lifts Bank Stocks, UnitedHealth Eyes Best Day in Eight Years, and JNJ (Johnson & Johnson) Set for Biggest One-Day Percentage Gain Since January. Those are facts.

“Brexit Deal Hopes Brighten Sentiment” – “Hope and Sentiment” – the kiss of death for traders. Clarity breathes life into a market.

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