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Markets Ignore Mixed Earnings And Weak Housing Report

Stocks appear to be taking their cue from the positive momentum in global oil prices, ignoring the pull from mixed earnings reports and a soft housing starts read.

The March housing starts and permits numbers came in weaker than expected, with weakness in single-family starts and permits notably putting a spotlight on supplies. March starts came in at 1.089 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis vs. 1.167 million and February’s 1.194 million (February was revised higher from 1.178 million). Permits came in at 1.086 million vs. estimates of 1.2 million and the prior-month’s 1.177 million (revised higher).

This is the lowest level for starts since October, though the March starts were up +14.2% from the year-earlier level. For the first three months of the year, starts were up +14.5% from the same period last year. The soft reading confirms the stagnant read from the homebuilder sentiment survey, which came in unchanged at 58 for the third month in a row. The 58 reading on the homebuilder survey isn’t low, but it remained above 60 for long period last year.

On the earnings front, UnitedHealth (UNH) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) beat estimates and guided higher while Goldman Sachs (GS) came up short. Last evening’s results from IBM (IBM) and Netflix (NFLX) were on the weak side as well. Including all of these results, we now have Q1 results from 53 S&P 500 members that combined account for 15.9% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these 53 index members are down -11% on +0.5% higher revenues, with 77.4% beating EPS estimates and 50.9% coming ahead of top-line estimates.

This is weak growth relative to what we have seen from the same group of 53 index members in other recent periods, though the ratio of companies beating estimates compares favorably to other the recent past, likely indicating that estimates may have fallen more than they needed to ahead of the start of this reporting cycle.

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