The market is not short on bad news these days.
Oil prices continue to plummet. This is pushing every stock in the sector lower. Many of these oil companies are also saddled with debt. Some will not be able to survive much longer …
The biggest growth stocks are crashing. This includes Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Alphabet (GOOG). These world-class growth names were up an average of 82% last year.
This year it’s a different story.
Now these “FANGs” are falling out of favor, as you can see from the chart below.
European banks are crashing …
Emerging markets like China and Brazil are slowing much faster than expected …
U.S. Treasury yields are at their lowest levels in over a year …
This means investors are losing confidence in stocks.
These are serious concerns. That’s why we are seeing a pullback in stocks and money flowing into safe havens like U.S. Treasuries and gold.
Over the past few years, investors have used similar pullbacks in the market as a buying opportunity. In fact, the markets rebounded on almost every pullback dating back to 2010.
But before you buy stocks on this sell-off, there is something you should know …
The markets are likely to fall much further this year based on one important growth metric.
Let me explain …
Since the 2008-’09 credit crisis, we’ve heard tons of negative reports about the economy and stocks.
We were told the Greek debt crisis would spill over to U.S. equities … billions of dollars in municipal bonds would default …
We were also told the U.S. dollar would lose its reserve currency status … the Ebola virus would spread throughout the U.S., creating mass hysteria … and government shutdowns would result in huge job losses and crush our economy.
I am not poking fun at these predictions. There’s just little evidence to support that these risks pose a long-term threat to stocks.
If you are looking for a best indicator for stocks … it’s corporate earnings growth.
From 2009 through 2015, corporate earnings surged more than 600%! This explains why we’ve seen one of the biggest bull markets in decades during this time period.
Today, we are just past the halfway point of (fourth-quarter) earnings season.
Every three months, public companies report earnings results. More important, these companies give their short- and long-term growth forecasts on their earnings conference calls.
Thus far, earning results have not been pretty. According to research firm FactSet, earnings are projected to decline roughly 6% compared to the fourth quarter of 2014.
In fact, this will be the third quarter in a row of year-over-year earnings declines.
By no surprise, stocks have been falling alongside earnings over the past few quarters. To make matters worse, the largest companies in America do not see this trend reversinganytime soon …
For example, Wal-Mart (WMT) is America’s largest retailer. Some economists see Wal-Mart as a bellwether for consumer spending. After all, 37 million Americans shop at Wal-Mart every day. And 90% of Americans live within 15 minutes of a Wal-Mart.
In 2015, Wal-Mart was one of the worst-performing stocks (falling 24%). After badly missing earnings estimates in October, the stock fell by its largest one-day amount in 25 years. More important, Wal-Mart predicted earnings and sales would be lower for 2016.
Wal-Mart said it plans on opening fewer stores over the next few years. They also plan to close 154 U.S.-based stores.
We’re hearing a familiar refrain across several industries …
Alcoa (AA) is another bellwether that sees much slower growth ahead. The third-largest aluminum maker in the world — which services numerous industries including aerospace, automotive, beverage and commercial construction — said it is slashing production.
Apple (AAPL) has been the largest company in the world for the past four years. The tech giant recently reported earnings that fell short of estimates. More important, Apple said iPhone sales (which account for nearly 70% of its total sales) are slowing.
Boeing (BA) is one of the world’s largest plane manufacturers. The company recently announced it would cut production of the 747 airplane in half amid “weak freight demand.” The company will take a $569 million charge to cut production.
Caterpillar (CAT) is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment. In late 2015, it announced 10,000 job cuts to account for much-slower growth. The company also said it “does not anticipate improvement in world economic growth in 2016.”
The huge slowdown in earnings is not a good sign for stocks. And America’s largest companies are cutting manufacturing and warning of much-slower growth for the rest of this year.
Based on these indicators, stocks are likely to fall much further over the next few quarters. In other words, I wouldn’t rush to buy stocks on the current pullback.