In a little over a week we'll start seeing the first wave of 1Q19 earnings reports. Expectations are low, raising the odds of upside surprises . . . and another satisfying season for BMR subscribers.
The 4Q18 season would have been a good one either way. Wall Street was primed for a rebound after the previous quarter's crisis of confidence, so all stocks really needed was proof that the economy around them wasn't completely falling apart. Remember, the fourth quarter was punctuated with tough talk on trade, slowing sales for Technology titans and the double punch of a partially inverted yield curve and a federal government shutdown.
None of that was enough to keep Corporate America from reporting 13% earnings growth in the quarter, or the economy at large from expanding at a healthy 2.6% annualized rate. Ordinarily these would be extremely bullish numbers. It's only in the shadow of three quarters of even stronger performance that they could even remotely be considered a disappointment.
So with stocks at deeply depressed levels and earnings powering ahead, there was zero reason for anything but a rally. Starting with the big Banks on January 14, the S&P 500 has run up close to 11%. As usual, our stocks were ahead of the curve, up an average of 14% over the same period, and with the market as a whole rebounding so fast it's not shocking that many BMR recommendations soared 20% to 70%.
By comparison, our true disappointments were limited to a narrow group of companies that we remain convinced have what it takes to outperform in the future. These are long-term stories like Tesla (TSLA: $292, up 2% this week) and Nutanix (NTNX: $38, flat), along with Office Properties Income Trust (OPI: $28, up 2%), which we took a look at yesterday. The fact that they're still on the list speaks to our conviction: We've crunched the numbers every way and can and still see better days ahead than their recent performance reflects. When they come back, we could have another Universal Display (OLED: $165, up 8%) or Roku (ROKU: $69, up 6%) comeback story on our hands. (Both of those BMR stocks have rallied more than 70% since January 11.)
Your patience isn't endless and neither is ours. When we saw Box stumble, we cut coverage . . . and so far, true enough, that stock has gone nowhere. On the other hand, Facebook rallied after earnings but with the regulatory picture continuing to cloud, we decided it was time to take profit and wait for better visibility.
Now where do we see the season going? We rarely look at "consensus" but have to admit that if Wall Street thinks earnings throughout the S&P 500 will fall 3% from last year's levels, conditions through the economy are a lot bleaker than any data release suggests. People are working. Wages are rising. The Fed was eager to keep raising interest rates until the market itself stole their thunder for the time being.
We wouldn't be shocked if the market as a whole holds onto at least a sliver of earnings growth by the time the season is over. All it takes is 1% or even less to keep the fundamentals edging up to new records, and that's what ultimately gives stocks their record-breaking force. It might not be a big leap or a fast one, but as long as the economy is moving in the right direction, earnings should keep up. And if not, our stocks are the ones most likely to capture the growth that's out there. They're the dynamic ones in the dynamic sectors. Even if the S&P 500 grinds its gears for another season, we have room to run.