Market Roundup
Dow +47.30 to 17,131.79
S&P +2.57 to 2,017.46
NASDAQ +8.17 to 4,838.64
10-YR Yield 0.0 to 2.09%
Gold +$6.30 to $1,162.10
Oil -$2.30 to $47.84
Bad corporate earnings news has been trickling out for a little while now. But get ready – because we’re going to get a flood of numbers this week!

Here’s just a sampling of the broad range of S&P 500 companies set to report earnings in the next few days …

Tomorrow: Railroad operator CSX (CSX) … semiconductor giant Intel (INTC) … drug and health-care company Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) … and megabank JPMorgan Chase (JPM).

Wednesday: Airline company Delta (DAL) … streaming video highflyer Netflix (NFLX) … and megabanks Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

Delta is among the companies reporting this week.

Thursday: Brokerage giant Goldman Sachs (GS) … casino operator Las Vegas Sands (LVS) … toymaker Mattel (MAT) … and chipmakers Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Fairchild Semiconductor (FCS).

Friday: Transportation and aerospace giants General Electric (GE) and Honeywell (HON) … insurer Progressive (PGR) … railroad Kansas City Southern (KSU) … and industrial products makers Parker-Hannifin (PH) and W.W. Grainger (GWW).

I’m going to be scouring these reports top to bottom for a very good reason. The profit picture will help determine whether the snapback rally we saw last week has legs … or not.

Color me skeptical. Second-quarter earnings and sales were the worst in six years. Third-quarter estimates have dropped firmly into negative territory. And fourth-quarter estimates have been falling week in and week out since late spring. That’s true whether you include energy sector results or not, suggesting the weakness that used to be cooped up in one or two sectors is now spreading throughout Corporate America.

“The weakness that used to be cooped up in one or two sectors is now spreading.”

Yes, there are still a handful of companies that can prosper, in a handful of safer sectors. One consumer staples company I’ve liked in my Safe Money Report for a little while now just broke out to a fresh all-time high.

But financials, industrials and materials remain in the soup. Energy is a basket case. And I have my doubts about other higher-risk sectors like technology.

So definitely listen to what companies have to say over the next few days. If the news is as troubling as I think it might be, this oversold bounce could run out of gas in a hurry.

Any thoughts on what the rails, the banks, the industrials, and the airlines will have to say? Are you expecting good news? Bad news? A mix of both? What does that say about the future direction of stock prices? Batten down the hatches or enjoy blue sky ahead? Let me know what your thoughts are over at the Money and Markets website.

Our Readers Speak

Just before the weekend, I talked about whether today’s market is more like 2007’s than 2011’s. Many of you seemed skeptical about the possibility of a new bear market, for a variety of reasons.

Reader Winky said: “Stocks always eventually go up. Look back a hundred years and stocks always eventually go up. The bears are only right once in a while.”

Reader Alan said: “This looks more like a 1998 or 2011 pullback. Like then, it should take the markets to one final rally high in either 2016 or early 2017. Then we should see a major decline everyone has been waiting for.”

Reader Steve T. said: “It should be obvious that currently the bulls are in charge. They were taken by surprise with the big drop in late August, but now they are awake and defending against further drops. You will notice that each time the indexes start sinking new buying comes in to support the markets.

“They are taking delight in ruining the bears’ plans and they are forcing the shorts to cover — and seem to have all the money necessary to keep it up. They are winning the battle for now and I don’t see what will change that unless something unexpected happens.”

Finally, Reader Gilbert W. said: “All bull markets get and need corrections. We finally got one. Nothing domestically has changed. Interest rates are still zero and going nowhere (maybe negative) since it would cost the Treasury hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Also, now that Japan and the EU are doing QE, that money has nowhere to go but here. New highs here we come!”

Not everyone is sold on that rosy outlook, though. Reader Bruce said: “I agree that we’re overdue for a serious correction now that the Fed’s printing presses have slowed down. All the QEs simply amount to ‘pushing on a string,’ a policy that’s always failed to stimulate the economy.”

Lastly, Reader Chuck B. said he’s keeping an eye on some key technical levels to see where we go next. His take:

“Back in July, the Dow broke through its 200-day moving average. The S&P 500 waited until later in September to do the same. But it was on the same day both had their recent big drops, and the same day, both MAs turned south. Now they both appear to moving to challenge their MAs. A failure to break and stay above would technically be a very negative sign.”

I appreciate everyone weighing in. It should be abundantly clear where I stand on this debate. Something fundamental appears to have changed in the markets for the first time in six-and-a-half years. That makes me extremely skeptical of the bull case – despite the rally we saw in the last several days.

As always, I’m happy to hear both opposing and confirming viewpoints. So if you’d like to share them, the website is there for you.

Other Developments of the Day

● Dell made it official Monday, saying it would team up with the private equity company Silver Lake. The price of $33.15 per share equates to a total cost of around $67 billion.

● Want to buy a (share of) Ferrari? You’ll soon get your chance. That’s because the iconic Italian carmaker is going public soon, offering 17.2 million shares at a price of $48 to $52. That’s 9% of the company, with family scion Piero Ferrari and another family that controls Fiat Chrysler maintaining sizable stakes.

● Troubled commodity trader and miner Glencore PLC is trying to save its bacon by selling off assets around the world. The latest plan is to unload two copper mines in Australia and Chile, which analysts estimate could bring in as much as $1 billion. That would still make only a minor dent in its large debt load.

● Will Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan become the next Republican Speaker of the House? Many members of his party want him to do so, but Mitt Romney’s former running mate remains noncommittal.

Does this EMC deal mean the buyout boom still has legs? Or is it doomed to fall apart thanks to tighter credit markets? What about the Ferrari IPO and the Glencore fire sales? Any thoughts you’d like to share there? Hit up the website if you’d like to add them.

Until next time,

Mike Larson