Light at the End of the Tunnel

Oil is at risk of losing its influence. Not in the context of its importance as a commodity, but in its ability to affect investor sentiment. In the past, in the trek towards $60 per barrel, any big increase in price on any given day usually affected the stock market negatively. With second quarter earnings season upon us, it now seems clear that the market isn’t inclined to attribute as much importance to this commodity’s price rise.

The fact is, there is very little any of us can do about it. The price of oil is a cost of doing business. It’s a cost in going to the grocery store, and it’s a cost in manufacturing car parts. The price is around $60 a barrel and that’s that. The stock market is now accepting this reality and moving on.

Consequently, investor sentiment is somewhat improving, and, although it’s early, second quarter earnings have so far been pretty darned good. In the large-cap sector of the market, Oracle came out and surprised the Street with its robust numbers, showing us that it is effectively handling its PeopleSoft acquisition. All sorts of smaller companies have also reported surprisingly strong numbers, with many beating consensus analyst estimates.

Perhaps we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the world isn’t ending at all (excluding Steven Spielberg). Perhaps I’ve been too bearish. In any case, it’s great to see companies reporting some solid numbers.

Previously, I wrote in this column about how a sea of change is coming in the equity market. I still can’t escape this view. I’m starting to think the outlook for technology is improving and that 2006, in particular, could be a great year for the market sector. Oil is going to continue affecting the economy, and energy stocks will continue to do well, but if you ask me where I’d put some money in this market right now, I’d definitely overweight technology.