I continue to be dumbfounded by the actions of Greek politicians. Just when more certainty was returning to currency and stock markets, they screw it up again. Make no mistake; today’s stock market woes are largely due to the European debt crisis. I’m totally unimpressed by how this is being handled.
The stock market did a great job breaking out of its correction trading range. The question is, can the breakout hold? If Greece would get its act together, then this is a stock market that wants to go higher.
Everyone knows that corporate earnings tend to be managed by companies and Wall Street analysts. But corporate earnings have been decidedly strong this quarter and all throughout the year. I’m certain the stock market would be a lot higher today if it wasn’t for Europe’s sovereign debt crisis.
We’ve seen very solid corporate earnings from the technology sector, basic materials, healthcare, and industrial goods. Stock market investors revised their corporate earnings expectations lower going into 2012 and this is setting up the stock market for a new advance, providing that the debt crisis or some other shock doesn’t take place. It’s a tricky time to be a stock market investor—with the age of austerity comes a great unknown. There will be growth in the future, but will it be like it was before? It’s tough to imagine Main Street corporate earnings taking off without a new up cycle in the real estate market.
The current stock market is well set up for a decent rally. Valuations are reasonable, visibility for corporate earnings is mostly solid and there is lots of cash sitting on the sidelines. The key going forward will be renewed certainty on the European debt crisis and renewed spending from consumers. With confidence comes hope and with new hope for the future comes renewed consumer spending.
One thing that’s seems quite unlikely, however, is a speedy return to normal economic growth rates. We’re still coming off a major period of debt-fueled excess and both Main Street and Wall Street (banks in particular) are trying to establish a new normal for operations (see All Global Investment Risks Point to a Steady Dollar & Mediocrity in Stocks & Metals). I have to say that, if it weren’t for emerging markets, interest rates being low, and a weaker U.S. dollar, corporate earnings would not be so robust. Policy-wise, the Federal Reserve is making progress domestically. It’s Europe that’s holding things back.
The stock market was due for a little rest after such a strong breakout, but the Greek news was a real surprise. The expectation for the fourth quarter is for another round of solid corporate earnings and, accordingly, the breakout should hold. Any return below 1,200 on the S&P 500 Index would not be good technically. The stock market is muddling through the tough times. It’s time now for Greece to get its act together.