Lots of Good News — It’s Just Not in the Headlines

“Ahead of the Street” Column, by Mitchell Clark, B. Comm.

The list of companies beating Wall Street expectations continues to grow. I think the market overreacted a bit to the lackluster news from the big banks. Of course, political talk of breaking up the big banks just at the beginning of a fragile earnings season was such a blunder. Politicians are so gifted at this. I think the broader market will get past the financials and take heart from the solid growth we’re seeing from a number of companies in the real economy.

Speaking of growth, check out Johnson Controls, Inc. (NYSE/JCI). This $20-billion industrial HVAC company just beat consensus Wall Street estimates on revenues. The company beat earnings estimates by $0.14 a share. And, the company guided 2010 earnings and revenues above current consensus.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (NYSE/BNI), the company that Warren Buffett is about to purchase, also reported very good comparative numbers in its latest quarter. The company beat the Street on revenues and earnings and reported increased cargo volumes. As a sector, you want to be following what’s happening to the railroads.

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The broader market’s recent trading action could be emblematic of the buy-in-anticipation/sell-on-news scenario that often happens in equity markets. The main stock market averages performed so well in the last half of 2009 that perhaps big investors feel like booking some profits, even if corporate earnings are decent.

It’s still very early into this earnings season and I can’t wait until smaller companies report their numbers. A lot of U.S.-listed China stocks don’t report until the end of February or early March, so speculative investors will have to wait for the hottest growth sector in the market.

I still believe that the current environment is not a good time to be considering new positions. The broader market looks really tired and most of the best companies in the marketplace have already seen their stock prices go up tremendously. So, this means we’re in for a period of substantial mediocrity going forward. I just hope the politicians don’t mess it up any further.