Market insights

Weekly market commentary

15-Apr-2024
  • BlackRock Investment Institute

Earnings growth not just about tech

­Market take

Weekly video_20240415

Natalie Gill

Opening frame: What’s driving markets? Market take

Camera frame

This week, I’ll be sharing our insights on the outlook for US company earnings.

Title slide: Earnings growth not just about tech

We think earnings resilience will be key for sentiment, especially after last week’s sticky inflation data spooked investors.

As first quarter results roll in, we look for brighter earnings across sectors, not just in tech.

1: US corporate earnings

Strong earnings have been buoyed by cooling inflation and solid employment, helping companies to maintain their profit margins broadly.

2: Market sentiment and inflation

We still think market sentiment can stay upbeat. But core services inflation could pressure overall inflation, indicating potentially higher rates for longer.

A key question for stocks is whether economic and earnings growth remain strong enough to offset that macro outlook?

3: Sectoral earnings growth

Industrial earnings, while moderating, remain strong. Energy and commodity producers are picking up, with commodity prices at a near-decade high. This recovery in sectors beyond tech is part of the broadening out of stock index drivers that we expected.

Outro: Here’s our Market take

We expect earnings to broaden beyond tech, favoring AI beneficiaries. We're overweight US stocks. We look for selective sector opportunities in industrials, commodities, healthcare and the energy sectors.

Closing frame: Read details:

www.blackrock.com/weekly-commentary.

Earnings set to broaden

As Q1 earnings season starts, we eye signs of earnings growth broadening beyond tech stocks to industrials and others. We stay overweight US equities.

Market backdrop

Crude oil prices rose, partly on heightened tensions in the Middle East. We are monitoring the risk of escalation – and potential impact on oil and inflation.

Week ahead

We’re watching US retail sales for an update on the strength of consumer spending after some signs of fatigue in recent confidence indicators.

Solid US economic and corporate earnings growth have supported risk appetite, driving stocks to all-time highs – even as bond yields have jumped. We think earnings will need to deliver on high expectations, especially after last week’s data showing sticky inflation spooked investors. As Q1 results start, we look for brighter earnings in sectors beyond tech, like industrials and materials, as the economy holds up. We stay overweight US stocks while monitoring Middle East tensions.

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Earnings rotation

US corporate earnings 12-month trailing and forward, April 2024

The chart shows 12-month trailing and forward earnings growth for select sectors. Earnings growth is projected to slow for consumer-focused sectors and pick up for healthcare, materials and energy.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Index returns do not account for fees. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from LSEG Datastream, April 2024. Notes: The chart shows 12-month trailing and forward earnings growth for select sectors in the MSCI USA index.

Solid job gains have supported overall US economic growth. That has helped companies maintain profit margins. Strong growth and resilient profit margins, especially in tech, have combined to help US corporate earnings broadly. Yet the earnings outlook by sector is more nuanced. The consumer goods and tech sectors have driven earnings growth in the past 12 months. See the chart. For Q1 earnings results now underway, we expect further strength for tech and other artificial intelligence (AI) beneficiaries. Yet we see earnings growth broadening out as consumers start to show some signs of fatigue and demand improves in other sectors. Earnings for energy and commodity producers are picking up after a rough two years. We think higher commodity prices can persist and boost both, with the FTSE/CoreCommodity CRB index up 14% this year and near a decade high.

Recovery beyond tech

This recovery in sectors beyond tech is part of the broadening out of stock index performance that we expected. That’s one reason we went overweight overall US stocks on a tactical horizon of six to 12 months earlier this year, while still preferring AI beneficiaries. We think market sentiment can stay upbeat if falling goods prices keep dragging down inflation – allowing the Federal Reserve to deliver one or two rate cuts. Yet the March acceleration in core services inflation, excluding housing, suggests overall core inflation could rise again sooner than we had expected. The tensions in the Middle East look contained for now but we see risks of further escalation. We could face elevated oil and commodity prices for longer, reinforcing the new regime of higher inflation – and our long-held view that we are in a higher-for-longer interest rate environment.

A sector rotation

The question for stocks: will economic and earnings growth stay strong enough to offset that inflation and policy rate outlook? Surprisingly robust consumer spending has propped up growth. We see a switch ahead: consumer spending could slow as households exhaust pandemic savings, while companies keep investing in factories from government incentives such as the Inflation Reduction Act. We see earnings forecasts holding up this year – but companies will need to deliver on high expectations. Analysts see 2024 earnings growth of 11% – above the 7% historical average, according to LSEG data.

We expect sector performance to diverge and like the industrial, materials and energy sectors over consumer goods. Commodity production has been cut alongside better-than-expected demand. Mega forces – structural changes driving returns now and in the future – also play a role. Prices of metals key to the low-carbon transition, like copper, have rebounded and could rise further. We see AI advances stoking the buildout of data centers, resulting in major commodity demand. Companies bringing production closer to home can boost industrials. We see energy stocks as a potential portfolio buffer against geopolitical risk and think long-term US bonds are less effective in this higher inflation environment.

Our bottom line

We expect earnings to broaden in sectors beyond tech and still like AI beneficiaries. We’re overweight US stocks. We look for selective sector opportunities in industrials, commodities, healthcare and energy.

Market backdrop

US crude oil prices hit six-month highs, partly on heightened tensions in the Middle East. We are watching developments closely after Iran’s strikes in Israel over the weekend and see heightened geopolitical risks adding to economic volatility. US stocks fell nearly 2% last week and 10-year Treasury yields pulled back after hitting 2024 highs near 4.60% after the March CPI report. The reported showed services inflation may put upward pressure on overall inflation sooner than we thought. 

This week, we track Q1 earnings now underway – and expect earnings growth to broaden out beyond tech. We look for Monday’s US retail sales to shed light on the strength of consumer spending after some signs of fatigue in sentiment data. We also eye China’s Q1 GDP for any signs that growth is starting to pick up from its weak state. We also get inflation data in both Japan and the UK. Markets have trimmed expectations for multiple Bank of England rate cuts.

Week ahead

The chart shows that Brent crude is the best performing asset year-to-date among a selected group of assets, while the 10-year US Treasury is the worst.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. Indexes are unmanaged and do not account for fees. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from LSEG Datastream as of April 11, 2024. Notes: The two ends of the bars show the lowest and highest returns at any point year to date, and the dots represent current year-to-date returns. Emerging market (EM), high yield and global corporate investment grade (IG) returns are denominated in US dollars, and the rest in local currencies. Indexes or prices used are: spot Brent crude, ICE US Dollar Index (DXY), spot gold, MSCI Emerging Markets Index, MSCI Europe Index, LSEG Datastream 10-year benchmark government bond index (US, Germany and Italy), Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global High Yield Index, J.P. Morgan EMBI Index, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Corporate Index and MSCI USA Index.

April 15

US retail sales

April 16

Japan trade data, UK CPI

April 17

China Q1 GDP, UK unemployment

April 10-17

Japan CPI

Read our past weekly commentaries here.

Big calls

Our highest conviction views on tactical (6-12 month) and strategic (long-term) horizons, April 2024

Note: Views are from a US dollar perspective, April 2024. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice regarding any particular funds, strategy or security.

Tactical granular views

Six to 12-month tactical views on selected assets vs. broad global asset classes by level of conviction, April 2024.

Legend Granular

Our approach is to first determine asset allocations based on our macro outlook – and what’s in the price. The table below reflects this. It leaves aside the opportunity for alpha, or the potential to generate above-benchmark returns. The new regime is not conducive to static exposures to broad asset classes, in our view, but it is creating more space for alpha. For example, the alpha opportunity in highly efficient DM equities markets historically has been low. That’s no longer the case, we think, thanks to greater volatility, macro uncertainty and dispersion of returns. The new regime puts a premium on insights and skill, in our view.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Note: Views are from a US dollar perspective, April 2024. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast or guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon as investment advice regarding any particular fund, strategy or security.

Euro-denominated tactical granular views

Six to 12-month tactical views on selected assets vs. broad global asset classes by level of conviction, April 2024.

Legend Granular

Asset Tactical view Commentary
Equities    
 Europe ex UK Europe ex-UK: tactical Underweight -1 We are underweight. While valuations look fair to us, we think the near-term growth and earnings outlook remain less attractive than in the US and Japan – our preferred markets.
Germany Germany: tactical neutral0-1 We are neutral. Valuations remain moderately supportive relative to peers. The earnings outlook looks set to brighten as global manufacturing activity bottoms out and financing conditions start to ease. Longer term, we think the low-carbon transition may bring opportunities.
France France: tactical Underweight -1 We are underweight. Relatively richer valuations offset the positive impact from past productivity enhancing reforms and favorable energy mix.
Italy Italy: tactical Underweight -1 We are underweight. Valuations and earnings dynamics are supportive. Yet recent growth outperformance seems largely due to significant fiscal stimulus in 2022-2023 that cannot be sustained over the next few years, we think.
Spain Spain: tactical neutral0-1 We are neutral. Valuations and earnings momentum are supportive relative to peers. The utilities sector looks set to benefit from an improving economic backdrop and advances in AI. Political uncertainty remains a potential risk.
Netherlands Netherlands: tactical Underweight -1 We are underweight. The Dutch stock markets' tilt to technology and semiconductors, a key beneficiary of higher demand for AI, is offset by relatively less favorable valuations than European peers.
Switzerland Switzerland: tactical Underweight 11 We are underweight in line with our broad European market positioning. Valuations remain high versus peers. The index’s defensive tilt will likely be less supported as long as global risk appetite holds up, we think.
UK UK: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. We find that attractive valuations better reflect the weak growth outlook and the Bank of England’s sharp rate hikes to deal with sticky inflation.
Fixed income    
Euro area government bonds Euro area government bonds: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. Market pricing reflects policy rates broadly in line with our expectations and 10-year yields are off their highs.
German bunds German bunds: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. Market pricing reflects policy rates broadly in line with our expectations and 10-year yields are off their highs.
French OATs French OATs: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. Valuations look less compelling following pronounced narrowing of French spreads to German bonds. Elevated French public debt and a slower pace of structural reforms remain challenges.
Italian BTPs Italian BTPs: tactical Neutral 0 We are neutral. The spread over German bunds looks tight given Italy’s recently higher-than-expected deficit-to-GDP-ratio and a trajectory for the debt ratio in the next few years which is stable at best. Other domestic factors remain supportive, with growth holding up well relative to the rest of the euro area. Italian households are also showing a significant willingness to increase their direct holding of BTPs amid high nominal rates and yields.
UK gilts UK gilts: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. Gilt yields have compressed relative to US Treasuries. Markets are pricing in Bank of England policy rates closer to our expectations.
Swiss government bonds Swiss government bonds: tactical neutral 00 We are neutral. The Swiss National Bank has started to cut policy rates given reduced inflationary pressure and the appreciation of the Swiss franc.
European inflation-linked bonds Euro area inflation-lined bonds: tactical neutral0-1 We are neutral. Market expectations for persistent inflation in the euro area have come down.
European investment grade credit European investment grade credit: tactical Neutral We are neutral. We maintain our preference for European investment grade over the US given more attractive valuations amid decent income.
European high yield European high yield: tactical Overweight +1 We are overweight. We find the income potential attractive. We still prefer European high yield given its more appealing valuations, higher quality and lower duration than in the US Spreads compensate for risks of a potential pick-up in defaults, in our view.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Note: Views are from a euro perspective, April 2024. This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific time and is not intended to be a forecast or guarantee of future results. This information should not be relied upon as investment advice regarding any particular fund, strategy or security.

Meet the authors
Wei Li
Global Chief Investment Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute
Carrie King
Chief Investment Officer of US and Developed Markets, Fundamental Equities – BlackRock
Natalie Gill
Portfolio Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute
Carolina Martinez Arevalo
Portfolio Strategist – BlackRock Investment Institute

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