Third-quarter earnings season may mean little to investors amid speculation Europe’s sovereign debt crisis will harm the global economy, Citigroup Inc. said.
Standard & Poor’s 500 Index profits will miss analyst estimates for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2008, according to Steven Wieting, a New York-based managing director of economic and market analysis at Citigroup, in a note yesterday. European developments may determine the impact of earnings reports on the market during this time of record correlation among U.S. stocks, he said.
“As the rallies of the past few weeks show, investors would not ignore convincing steps from officials to diffuse sovereign debt risks in Europe,” Wieting wrote. “But in the absence of such steps, reasonably solid earnings reports would most likely provide only a temporary respite from macro-driven markets.”
U.S. options traders see almost no chance that earnings, dividends or buybacks will influence stock prices through the end of 2011, instead placing record bets that equities move in lockstep in reaction to Europe’s debt crisis. The Chicago Board Options Exchange S&P 500 Implied Correlation Index jumped to a record 90.28 on Sept. 30. The correlation coefficient of S&P 500 companies with the index has surged to 0.85, its highest level ever, according to data on the 50-day rolling average from Birinyi Associates Inc. in Westport, Connecticut. A correlation of 1 would mean they move in lockstep.
Alcoa Inc. will become the first Dow Jones Industrial Average company to report third-quarter results on Oct. 11. Euro-area finance ministers, who yesterday discussed re-crafting a July deal on private-investor participation in a new Greek rescue, pushed back a decision on the release of the country’s next 8 billion-euro ($10.6 billion) loan installment until after Oct. 13.
The delays in resolving the Greek crisis leave “an uncertain backdrop at the very start of reporting season,” Wieting said. “If aid is not delayed further, the next focus would be another more crucial payment in December.”
Third-quarter earnings will miss analyst predictions by 1.2 percent, Wieting said.
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