Earnings reports from the four biggest U.S. companies by market capitalization in the coming week may test a nascent rally that has seen stocks claw their way back from yet another low. Apple, Microsoft, Google-parent Alphabet and Amazon account for a combined 20% of the weight of the S&P 500 and more than a third of the Nasdaq Composite. Investors view the growth giants as bellwethers for how corporate America is faring during a year in which inflation has soared, pushing the Federal Reserve to quickly enact a series of jumbo-sized rate hikes that bruised markets and raised fears a recession may be coming.
“If these megacaps can’t do well, then the question is: who can do well?” said Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist at BMO Wealth Management. (Graphic: Megacaps market values vs stock market, The S&P 500 is up nearly 5% from its Oct 12 closing low for the year after posting its biggest weekly gain since late June. Even with stocks’ latest rebound, the index has dropped 21% so far in 2022, on track for its biggest decline since 2008.
Resilient corporate profits have been one bright spot this year, though doubts are growing over how sustainable they will be. With the bulk of S&P 500 companies still to report, third-quarter profits are estimated to have climbed 3.1% versus the year-ago period, which would be the weakest performance in two years, according to Refinitiv IBES, while earnings growth expectations for 2023 have fallen to 7.2% from 7.8% on Oct 1.