(By Rich Bieglmeier) The Federal Reserve did nothing Wednesday afternoon. The central bank left rates and guidance unchanged. The only new bit of info is that Bernanke and the team stated the obvious, the economy is slowing, Europe is in bad shape, Asia is suffering too, and trying to get a job is hard. The best the Fed could do is offer support if conditions deteriorate. We'll see you again in September.
The FOMC meeting overshadowed the second ISM Manufacturing reading in a row below 50. The 49.8 reading follows last month's 49.7. At best, the economy is stalling, at worst, it's waiting for a treat to roll over and play dead.
Now, the market will return to its regularly scheduled earnings programs. With roughly 70% of second quarter earnings for the S&P 500 on the books, it's been a slow quarter. Operating earnings are up 2.78% versus last year, and as reported earnings have gained 2.41%, earnings growth has clearly peaked.
Sales are even more worrisome. Revenues dipped 1.34% versus the same timeframe in 2011. Take out Information Technology's 8.3% sales gains (up 5.6% ex-AAPL); and toplines, minus IT, are down 2.4% - ouchie, can Wall Street get a Band-Aid for that. Oh, forgot, Ben says you'll have to wait.
Considering the most recent GDP, sales, manufacturing data… iStock believes revenue deceleration could pick up steam in the third quarter. There is a no way revenue can continue to dwindle and stocks march on for much longer. If UPS is correct in its assessment of 1% GDP expansion for the rest of 2012, then we've seen the market peak for the year. However, the Federal Reserve and central banks around the world remain wildcards. Minus major liquidity injections, the economy, jobs, and earnings are likely to get worse before they get better.
Maybe stocks will get another dose of better than expected jobless claims numbers before the opening bell. Wall Street believes 370,000 folks filled out initial claims last week. With last week's nice surprise, we are inclined to believe Thursday's announcement might be a little better than anticipated too.
However, regardless of result, we don't believe it will be enough to push the NASDAQ, to a new cycle high. Until then, the recent, pre-FOMC rally is nothing more than a mirage, a head fake without confirmation.
This week we reversed the order of reviewing announced earnings and our iEstimates for possible bullish earnings surprises in the week ahead. We'll have iEstimates and some color on Friday's Employment Situation report in tomorrow's Stock Market Opening Report.