Traders swerve risk ahead of key US earnings
Europe has taken its cue from the US and Asia so far this morning, posting losses as investor caution prevails ahead of a key week for US earnings. Concerns over equity valuations are on the up as we countdown to US Bank earnings, with J.P Morgan and Wells Fargo due to release before the bell, the former expected to post a drop in both earnings and profits. Few big names have reported yet, but historical bellwether Alcoa got us off to a lacklustre start last week and given current valuations we probably need a strong season just to stand still, making todays numbers all the more important.
To add to earnings pressure, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart yesterday stated that the taper will continue if the recovery stays on course, and while he is not a voting member until 2015 it is a timely reminder that equities will not be able to rely on a stimulus backstop for ever and 2014 may not be quite as serene as the last 12 months.
Astrazeneca have predicted a return to growth quicker than current analyst forecasts according to a release today. The firm has seen revenues under pressure in recent years as a number of patent expiries and generic competitors ate into sales. The update comes ahead of a 2013 number release on Feb 6th, with a strong pipeline vs 12 months ago providing a boost in optimism and sending the stock higher on the open.
H1 results from Barratt Developments seemed to receive a resounding thumbs up from analysts this morning, but the stock traded lower on the open in what looked like a bit of profit taking having bounced back close to break even within the opening hour. The firm reported a huge 71% surge in total home sales for H1 as the housing market continues to pick up steam. I suppose given the well reported increase in activity and rampant house prices, the results might not quite be as much of a surprise as the headline would indicate. Given a 6% rise in the stock in January against a sector that has headed over 4% lower, that may suggest that although eye-catching, the numbers were largely priced in.
Another stock heading lower despite a strong update was ASOS, down near 5% despite a bumper Christmas that helped post a 38% hike in sales for the last 4 months of 2013. While the figure will still be the envy of the rest of the sector, forecasts were for 36% growth and competes with a 47% rate from q4 2013/14. Having set the bar so high in previous updates, investor expectations may have got a bit ahead of themselves with the stock climbing over 10% in the 2 weeks prior.
Blinkx lost over 5% following a downgrade from Jefferies, cutting them to hold with a 190p target.
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