U.S. stocks closed with gains on Thursday and look to finish the week higher after several weeks of downward to sideways action on Wall Street. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2%, or 293.60 points, to 24,483.05. The S&P 500 ended up 21.80 points, or 0.8%, to 2,663.99. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 71.22 points, or 1%, to 7,140.25. Without much economic data of significance due to be released Friday, the major indices will rely on bank earnings to finish out the week strongly.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo kick off earnings season on Friday. Analysts expect J.P. Morgan to report EPS of $2.28 in the quarter, up from $1.65 a year ago, and revenue of $27.7 billion, compared to $25.6 billion last year. The Factset analyst consensus for Wells Fargo & Co. calls for earnings of $1.06, compared to $1.00 a year ago. The consensus for revenue is $21.7 billion, down from $22.0 billion a year ago. Factset analysts forecast per-share earnings of $1.61 for Citigroup Inc. compared to $1.35 a year ago, and revenue of $18.9 billion, versus $18.1 billion a year ago.
The geopolitical environment continues to persuade investors into safe haven assets, be them bonds or precious metals of late. Gold soared to two-year highs this week as investors struggle with various tweets, trade war rhetoric and the FBI raid of Michael Cohen’s offices just to name a few concerns. Given the geopolitical environment of uncertainty, one strategist suggests the bull market in gold isn’t over just yet.
“I am a buyer. I really do like it,” Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday. It’s “retaking its mantle as the key defensive asset against bitcoin, which has certainly suffered a lot over the last couple of months.”
As of Thursday, gold had risen just over 3% in 2018. The rally in gold had recently caught the attention of Finom Group’s Chief Market Strategist Seth Golden. He denoted the uptrend in the Spiders Gold Shares (GLD) in a tweet yesterday to subscribers as follows:
Gold prices found a bottom in early December 2015. Since that low, gold has surged 28 percent. If gold can break above the next key level of resistance, it would be a big positive for gold prices, says Chris Verrone, head of technical analysis at Strategas Research Partners.
“This $1,375 level is key. That’s been resistance over the last couple of years,” he said. “We ultimately think it does break out above that.”
The after hours trade on Thursday was impacted by headlines surrounding the James Comey tell-all book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” that will be released Tuesday. Some media outlets, including the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times, got hold of advance copies Thursday and published excerpts from the book as follows:
“What is happening now is not normal,” Comey writes. “It is not fake news. It is not okay,” he says, describing “the forest fire that is the Trump presidency.”
There will likely be more to come from the Comey book in the coming days and weeks with a focus interview by ABC’s 20/20 set for this Sunday. As investors are impacted with this latest turmoil and controversy headlining President Trump’s inter-office relationships with the FBI and other Justice Departments, investors will also contend with the pending response to Syrian chemical attacks on its citizens.
Britain, France and the U.S. united Thursday around plans for a military strike against Syria as they worked through differences over the scope and purpose of a joint response to a chemical weapons attack. President Donald Trump met with his national security team to discuss military options. While officials in all three noted countries said there now is definitive proof that Syria used chemical weapons last weekend to kill dozens of civilians, there remains the absence of finalized plans for a retaliatory strike.
Switching our focus back to the economy, there is little economic data of consequence to move markets today, although Fed speeches are abound. Consumer sentiment and the job openings and labor turnover survey (JOLTS) are both due out at 10 a.m. ET. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is due to speak at Washington University’s Calhoun lecture series in St. Louis. In Texas, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan will be at the Odessa Chamber of Commerce member luncheon, while Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren will attend Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Outlook Breakfast in Boston.
Investors have responded to the onslaught of geopolitics more so in 2018 than in 2017, but with earnings season at-hand that focus may shift somewhat. Q1 2018 earnings carry great expectations with S&P 500 earnings forecasted to grow between 16% and 18% depending on the tracking firm. Thomson Reuters has forecasted Q1 2018, S&P 500 earnings to grow over 18%, accompanied by revenue growth of 7.4 percent.
We’ll see just how well the markets receive bank earnings today. With all the fluctuations in the equity markets this year, Larry Fink, CEO of the world’s largest asset management firm, BlackRock Inc., says investors ought to forgo attempts to time the market. They should just stay invested.
“But I think we spend too much time talking about market timing. And our big thrust is focusing on being in the market, all the time, because most of us are not good enough at market timing. For those who have been in the market, stayed in the market after the 2008 crash into 2009, really benefited. And those who ran way really were quite harmed by that action. And so, at the time when you had the greatest fear that was probably the time to buy the most. So, the key for investors is staying in the market.”
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