Markets ended a fairly bullish week mixed, gaining in some sectors, while others fell to earnings jitters. The S&P 500 notched a new high, while the Dow finally reached a record close. For the week, the S&P 500 gained 0.11%, the Dow gained 0.29%, and the Nasdaq lost 0.54%.
Earnings season hit the halfway point and some analysts are giving the performance a barely passing grade. While corporate profits are healthy, they are being achieved through cost cutting and accounting acrobatics rather than revenue growth. Barely half of S&P 500 companies that have reported in have beaten estimates, highlighting the fact that U.S. firms are still struggling with weak demand and slow economic growth.
Of course, there are some bright spots such as in the tech sector, where third-quarter earnings growth is expected to hit 5.81%, as compared to estimates of 2.6% at the beginning of the season. Consumer discretionaries are another strong point, led by double-digit growth from retailers.
The Federal Reserve held a scheduled FOMC meeting last week, but decided to delay any taper of its bond-buying program for another day. This was not unexpected since the government shutdown caused the delay of critical economic reports and data collection, leaving Fed economists without a clear picture of the current state of the economy. While the Fed has one more meeting left in 2013, it's looking increasingly unlikely that they'll initiate tapering while the country is still recovering from Washington's actions.
We expect that the earnings season will occupy investors' attention this week as they look for confirmation of the market rally. We'll also get a look at the October jobs report and an advance third-quarter GDP estimate. It's hard to know how investors will view these reports since the effects of the government shutdown will have skewed results. Although we don't yet have any complete information about the costs of the shutdown, one report suggests that it took a $24 billion chunk out of the economy. This may mean that fourth quarter growth may slow down and that people who lost wages may not be spending as much on holiday shopping.