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Biggest Risks for the Market... Besides the Fiscal Cliff

Todd Bunton

The fiscal cliff has been on the top of investors' minds - and the top of financial news websites - since the election ended on November 6. As we rapidly approach 2013 and negotiations heat up, I suspect that the fiscal cliff will only grab more headlines and more attention from investors.

I'm not trying to stir up fear, but certainly there are other risks that investors should at least be cognizant of.

Among the choices below, which do you believe poses the biggest threat to the stock market besides the fiscal cliff?

A. Declining earnings estimates
B. Slowing global economy
C. Ongoing European debt crisis
D. Middle East unrest
E. None of the above

My vote is for A (which is closely related to B). Take a look at this graph from Standard & Poor's that plots 2013 operating EPS estimates for the S&P 500 over the last 8 months:

As you can see, each of the last two earnings seasons has prompted analysts to ratchet their relatively rosy earnings estimates lower. And I think that once Q4 earnings season rolls around in January, you'll see an even bigger decline in estimates. Why? Because I believe corporate managers will likely provide tepid 2013 guidance, prompting negative revisions from analysts. And that's usually bad news for stock prices.

So what else besides the fiscal cliff do you think investors should be most concerned about?

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