Can markets make a comeback? That depends on tech earnings

Can markets make a comeback? That depends on tech earnings

Apr 23,2024

A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here. You can listen to an audio version of the newsletter by clicking the same link.

New York CNN  — 

Markets have had a rough time this month, but don’t count them out just yet.

Monday’s bounceback, buoyed by a strong start to earnings season, could mark a sea change for investors.

What’s happening: US stocks slid from recent highs last week as inflation proved sticky and heightened geopolitical tensions drove major indexes to their longest slump in 18 months.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropped six days in a row, the longest downswing since October 2022. The Nasdaq tumbled 2.1% on Friday as tech stocks plunged, marking its worst day since January 31.

“We’ve expected inflation would be on a rollercoaster,” wrote analysts at BlackRock in a note on Monday. “Further escalation of Middle East tensions could see oil prices staying elevated, reinforcing higher inflation and higher-for-longer interest rates.”

Those sticky inflation rates have pushed investors to slash their expectations for interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve. They’re now anticipating just one cut this year, according to the CME FedWatch tool. That’s down from six at the beginning of the year.

“We question whether the slide in stocks is a blip or a bigger shift toward pricing in inflation — and interest rates — settling higher than pre-pandemic,” wrote the BlackRock analysts.

That’s why earnings this week are so critical for the market.

“With stocks under pressure and rate cut hopes fading, we think the bar is higher for tech firms to deliver on earnings expectations — and for other sectors to show an earnings recovery,” they wrote. “US earnings updates this week will be key to see if they can keep topping expectations and buoying risk appetite in a higher-for-longer interest rate environment.”

Tesla, Facebook-parent Meta, IBM, Microsoft and Alphabet all report first quarter earnings later this week.

“Big Tech earnings may determine whether the stock market avoids its first four-week losing streak in two years,” wrote Chris Larkin, managing director of trading and investing at E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley on Monday.

The good news: This earnings season has been strong so far.

About 15% of S&P 500 companies have reported first quarter earnings, and nearly three-quarters of those companies have posted a positive earnings-per-share surprise. About 60% of companies have beaten revenue expectations, according to FactSet data.

Analysts at Wells Fargo say they expect S&P 500 Index profits to expand for the third consecutive quarter.

But investors are nervously waiting for the Magnificent Seven, those massive Tech stocks that carry an outsized portion of market weight, to report.

FactSet estimates predict the worry is overblown, at least for most of that group.

Companies in the Magnificent Seven are expected to drive earnings higher for the S&P 500 for the first quarter, according to FactSet. Nvidia, Amazon, Meta, Alphabet and Microsoft are projected to be the top five contributors to year-over-year earnings growth for the S&P 500. The other two Magnificant Seven stocks are Tesla and Apple.

The bad news: Other economists aren’t as certain that things will go well for Big Tech this quarter.

Analysts at Bank of America wrote that they expect Magnificent Seven earnings to slow compared to last year and that they expect all seven companies to see decelerating growth when measured by earnings per share.

Others are lukewarm on Big Tech and the hype around artificial intelligence.

“With AI, we’re not at the craziness of the 1990s dotcom bubble just yet — but it is starting to feel a little bit like that,” wrote Dave Sekera, chief US market strategist at Morningstar in a note on Monday.

“I think what you’re really going to start hearing this quarter and maybe the next couple quarters is a lot of talk about AI. As an investor, you need to have a skeptical ear regarding those companies that talk about AI but don’t necessarily have a clear path as to how AI is going to either bolster their results or expand their margins.”

Overall, for big tech, he said “I think this quarter is one of those where no new news is good news.”

Taylor Swift’s ‘Tortured Poets Department’ shatters streaming records across Spotify, Amazon, Apple

Taylor Swift is breaking records. Again.

Swift’s latest album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” which dropped on Friday, became the most-streamed album on its first day across Spotify, Amazon Music, and Apple Music, reports my colleague Liam Reilly.

The pop star’s 11th studio album raked in a stunning 300 million streams in a single day on Friday on Spotify alone, becoming the most-streamed album in a single day in just 12 hours.

Amazon and Apple also said Swift’s album broke records across their respective streaming platforms.

“The album broke the record for biggest pop album of all time by first-day streams,” Apple Music said.

Amazon Music reported “The Tortured Poets Department” had in just three days become the music service’s most-streamed album worldwide in its first week.

The album’s opening track, “Fortnight (feat. Post Malone),” also received laurels, becoming the most-streamed song in a single day on Spotify.

Tesla cuts prices in US, China and Germany as competition heats up

Tesla has announced aggressive price cuts in China and Germany, shortly after reducing prices in the United States, as the world’s largest maker of electric vehicles (EV) faces declining sales and growing competition in major markets, reports my colleague Laura He.

The latest round of price cuts adds to a series of price cuts that Tesla has made dating back to early last year to try to maintain demand in the face of increased competition from EV offerings by traditional automakers and higher interest rates driving up the cost of car purchases for many buyers. Tesla’s price cuts have squeezed its profit margins and caused its stock to fall about 4% in trading Monday, ahead of its first quarter earnings report due out after the bell Tuesday.

On Sunday, the EV giant slashed the starting prices of four models sold in mainland China, its largest overseas market, by 14,000 yuan ($1,932). The Model Y, the company’s bestselling car in the country, now starts at its lowest -ever price of 249,900 yuan ($34,502).

In Germany, Tesla’s biggest market in Europe, the price of its Model 3 rear-wheel drive was also lowered by 2,000 euros ($2,132) to 40,990 euros ($43,707), according to its official website.

The first cuts were announced on Friday in the US, when Tesla reduced the prices of three of its five models. The prices of the Model Y, Model X and Model S were cut by $2,000 each, while those for the Model 3 and the Cybertruck remained unchanged.

The flurry of cuts comes during a tough time for Tesla. Its stock has plunged more than 40% year-to-date, after it reported a drop in quarterly deliveries for the first time in nearly four years and announced job cuts equivalent to more than 10% of its global staff.

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