Broker Check

April 29, 2013 - Slower Growth Ahead?

May 01, 2013

Markets ended positive last week despite a disappointing GDP report, erasing losses endured the previous week. As of Friday’s close, the S&P 500 gained 1.74%, the Dow climbed 1.13%, and the Nasdaq increased 2.28%.[i]

Earnings data and a handful of economic reports drove most of the market action last week. According to our first peek at preliminary first quarter GDP data, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.5%, which is up significantly from the 0.4% gain in the fourth quarter of 2012, but still below consensus expectations of around 3.0%.[ii] While the data is preliminary, a deeper look suggests we may face slower growth in the second quarter. Let’s break down the numbers to see why:

Nearly all the gains in Q1 came from consumer spending and inventories. Consumer spending is expected to drop in the spring as Americans continue to feel the effects of the 2% payroll tax increase. Inventory growth, driven by farmers stocking up their silos after last year’s drought, made a strong contribution to last quarter’s growth; however, the activity was unusual, and unlikely to continue into Q2. Furthermore, government spending, which accounts for a significant part of economic activity, is declining rapidly – dropping 4.1% in Q1 alone. Most analysts expect government spending to continue to slide as the effects of sequestration become more pronounced.[iii]

On the earnings front, more than 30% of the S&P 500 has reported and, while results are uneven, the news is mostly good. Blended earnings are up 2.4% in the first quarter, which is great since most analysts had low expectations. Two standout sectors thus far are technology, which benefited from strong consumer electronics sales, and building materials, which is getting a boost from the housing sector.[iv] 

On the downside, there are a lot of revenue misses happening; so far, only 39% of companies have beat revenue expectations, which is far below the historic average of 61%. This indicates that demand is still soft and companies are achieving their results by cutting costs. Anemic revenue growth seems to be tied to slow global demand, which is a particular problem for large multinational corporations that do a lot of business abroad. Demand in Europe is essentially flat, and sales volume is down across the board, making it difficult for companies to improve their margins.[v]

Next week will see the release of a slew of economic data, along with the steady march of more earnings reports. Analysts will be closely watching consumer spending and consumer confidence data, as well as the jobs report to see whether more market upside is possible. As always, we’ll continue to monitor earnings reports and economic data and keep you updated.


Monday: Personal Income and Outlays, Pending Home Sales Index, Dallas Fed Mfg. Survey
Tuesday: Employment Cost Index, S&P Case-Shiller HPI, Chicago PMI, Consumer Confidence
Wednesday: Motor Vehicle Sales, ADP Employment Report, PMI Manufacturing Index, ISM Mfg. Index, Construction Spending, EIA Petroleum Status Report, FOMC Meeting Announcement
Thursday: International Trade, Jobless Claims, Productivity and Costs
Friday: Employment Situation, Factory Orders, ISM Non-Mfg. Index


Notes: All index returns exclude reinvested dividends, and the 5-year and 10-year returns are annualized. Sources: Yahoo! Finance and International performance is represented by the MSCI EAFE Index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indices are unmanaged and cannot be invested into directly.

The Standard & Poor's 500 (S&P 500) is an unmanaged group of securities considered to be representative of the stock market in general. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ. 

The Nasdaq is a computerized system that facilitates trading and provides price quotations on some 5,000 of the more actively traded over-the-counter stocks