Apr 26, 2019, by Samuel Potter
Investors hoping to glean some clarity on the outlook from this earnings season could be forgiven for being disappointed — the picture thus far is more Jackson Pollock than Leonardo da Vinci. Tech stocks defied a downbeat day on Thursday thanks to strong results from Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc., before Amazon.com Inc. blew expectations out of the water after the close. But Intel Corp. didn’t, cutting sales and earnings targets. And then Sony Corp. painted its own bleak picture in Asia on Friday. Ford Motor Co. set a high bar for carmakers, before Daimler AG failed to clear said bar this morning in what you might describe as a “soft” profit warning. One potential bright spot: Drug makers. AstraZeneca Plc and Sanofi both get a coveted Five Things gold-star sticker.
Trade is still a thing
Speaking of drugs, the White House is reportedly mulling concessions over pharmaceuticals in the trade talks with China. Such a move – which would see U.S. pharmaceutical products get less protection than they receive at home – could well draw opposition from the American drug industry. For its part, China is also making constructive noises. Addressing some 40 world leaders at the Belt and Road forum in Beijing, President Xi Jinping spent a large portion of his speech talking about Chinese domestic reforms including of state subsidies, intellectual property rights and foreign investment. All are issues the U.S. has raised. Stay tuned – the next round of official talks is next week.
Did the U.S. partial government shutdown crimp economic activity? Did the fourth-quarter market rout bleed into the real world? Will the remaining Avengers be able to defeat Thanos? Some of those questions will be answered at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, when first-quarter GDP data lands. Investors the globe over would be forgiven for taking an even-keener interest than usual in the number from the world’s biggest economy, as indicators from Seoul to Berlin seem to be continuing their recent slide. Japan added to gloom overnight with an unexpected decline in factory output, a day after South Korea reported the biggest GDP contraction in a decade and two days after key gauges of confidence in the euro area’s largest economies deteriorated. For those seeking positive global headlines… well, Avengers: Endgame is getting good reviews, we suppose.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index edged down 0.1 percent as Japan’s Topix index closed 0.2 percent lower. Shares in Shanghai had another bad day, falling 1.2 percent. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index edged higher at 6:15 a.m. Eastern Time. S&P 500 futures were flat, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.521 percent and gold was higher.
All eyes on that U.S. growth figure, as mentioned, but there’s some bonus data in the shape of personal consumption figures, and at 10:00 a.m. the University of Michigan readings on consumer sentiment and inflation expectations. And, as if we haven’t had enough earnings already, watch out for results from the likes of American Airlines Group Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. before the bell. Meanwhile in Europe, the CEO of German health care and chemicals conglomerate Bayer AG will face a crunch confidence vote at the culmination of a day-long shareholder meeting. It’s part of the fallout of the company’s $63 billion Monsanto acquisition.