Although growth prospects remain dim and job creation remains minimal, investors continue to snatch up equities thanks to a weak dollar and hopes that the Fed will resume its quantitative easing program in the not-so-distant future. However, speculation of this program and brighter futures in emerging markets are combining to produce some collateral damage, as a variety of commodities ranging from sugar to oil have seen prices surge in recent days thanks to continued weakness in the greenback. Nevertheless, U.S. equities managed to once again finish last week in positive territory, as the broad S&P gained roughly 10 points, or 0.9%. This gain came on the back of solid corporate profits from major names such as Google, which finished the week up almost 12% on a robust third quarter earnings report. This news helped to buoy the tech sector and investors bought up other big tech names in anticipation of a continued upward trend this week.
This week, central bank meetings and political developments look likely to take a back seat to an earnings bonanza. Close to one-fifth of the S&P 500 is scheduled to report their earnings, potentially creating another volatile week on Wall Street. Important bellwethers of the American economy such as Apple, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, and Amazon.com are all due to report this week, suggesting that all corners of the market will likely be impacted by the news. Additionally, investors will likely hone in on continuing worries in the financial sector over the brewing foreclosure scandal which has virtually ground the nation’s foreclosure process to a halt. Speculation over the depth of this issue has already sunk a variety of financials and sent both Bank of America and Wells Fargo lower by more than 9% last week. Against this backdrop, we profile three ETFs that could be active this week [for more ETF ideas sign up for our free ETF newsletter]:
iShares Dow Jones U.S. Financial Services Index Fund (IYG)
Why IYG Will Be In Focus: As more details about ‘Foreclosure-Gate’ hit the market, expect a number of the country’s largest banks to remain in the spotlight. The fact that this scandal is hitting the markets just in time for a host of bank earnings reports is unlikely to help matters, and could make for a week of high volatility in the financial sector. Arguably the most important report of the week is the one from Bank of America (BAC) due out on Tuesday. The company has been hit hard by the recent foreclosure issues, and many analysts do not believe that the bank is strong enough to deal with a massive shift in its loan portfolio since it does not maintain the same robust level of capital reserves as some of its competitors. Due to this, we look for investors to put a special focus on the comments on this issue and how BAC plans to limit these risks going forward [see Why The Reform Bill Boosted Financial ETFs].
Merrill Lynch Pharmaceutical HOLDR (PPH)
Why PPH Will Be In Focus: As financials and technology stocks hog the spotlight, the pharmaceutical industry has flown under the radar despite its traditional role as a safe-haven industry that pays out solid dividends. With increased scrutiny of the financial sector, and the possibility of bubbles building in tech, many investors will likely focus in on the important pharmaceutical industry for further guidance in this shaky market. Luckily for these investors, a number of key big pharma companies look to report their earnings this week, potentially setting the tone for the often overlooked but important corner of the market.
All eyes will be on consumer product giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), which makes up nearly a quarter of PPH’s total assets. The company has seen a rough quarter from a public relations standpoint thanks to numerous recalls, a factory shutdown, and ongoing probes from the FDA and several other government entities. Hopefully, the company can deflect some of the coverage away from this and onto its promising new acquisitions in the medical device and vaccine spaces. Many analysts are also looking for the company to update investors on some of its late-stage drugs, which if approved would give JNJ a much-needed revenue boost; the company is expected to post earnings of $1.15 a share on revenues of $15.18 billion, a slight decrease in profits from last year’s quarter but a slight gain in revenues.”The FDA has held up decisions on two experimental J&J drugs this year.” reports the Associated Press. “With revenue down slightly due to the recalls and last year’s loss of patent protection for blockbusters Topamax for epilepsy and Risperdal for schizophrenia, J&J needs some new products to hit the market soon.” [also read Troubles At JNJ Infect PPH]
Why ITA Will Be In Focus: Earnings reports look to highlight an exciting week for the aerospace and defense industry, this fund’s top three components are scheduled to give their quarterly reports by Friday. The three companies–United Technologies, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin–make up just over one-fifth of the total assets in the fund, and any guidance shifts or revenue surprises will likely impact not only the individual companies but the industry as a whole. Given the weak performance of GE last week, investors are likely to focus in on United Technologies (UTX), which is perhaps the closest comparable company to GE in the world today. UTX is expected to post earnings of $1.28 a share on sales of $13.9 billion, which compares relatively favorably to the previous quarter in which the company announced EPS of $1.20. However, it is important to note that in the same quarter last year UTX had profits of $1.32 for the quarter on sales of $13.4 billion, suggesting that not only are profits likely to be down from a year ago but that the company is losing some of its profit margin as well [read The Next Frontier For Aerospace & Defense ETFs].
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Disclosure: Eric is long ITA.