Stock Swings and Earnings

A recent article by Bloomberg columnist Nir Kaissar discusses the market’s increased volatility within the context of earnings. “More than a century of data,” he writes, “show that declines in the equity market most often precede slumps in earnings rather than the other way around.”

Kaissar points out that although “companies are awash in profits” and Wall Street analysts lean on strong business fundamentals as comfort in the face of volatility, “fundamentals have little to do with stock prices in the short run.” He asserts that, in fact, it can take some time for stock prices and earnings to “sync up.” It’s not unusual, Kaissar writes, for stocks to “flounder even as companies post record profits” and says that there’s little evidence to support that profits can in fact bolster stock prices.

The article includes charts showing that “declines in the stock market most often preceded declines in earnings rather than the other way around, which meant that in many cases stock prices fell even as earnings continued to grow.”

While Kaissar isn’t suggesting that lower earnings always follow declining stock prices, he says “prices seem to pack more information than earnings, which should comfort investors, at least for now.” Still, he concludes, “keep an eye on those prices. If they tumble, the fundamentals may not be as solid as they seem.”