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The stock market is still being savaged by bears

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large
The bears continue to try to take down the market.

Wall Street is still being savaged by bears.

Don’t let the short-term rebound this week in the markets fool you, the bears are still snacking on the flesh of the bull market.

The only question right now is when they will be fully satiated.

Yahoo Finance by the numbers: The bearishness that has been roiling the markets since October thanks to volatile trade headlines from team President Donald Trump and mixed messages from the Federal Reserve are beginning to appear in cold hard data. Most visibly it has begun to surface in S&P 500 earnings estimates, which are used by investors to assess the profit potential of the companies underlying the index. When Wall Street marks down its profit forecasts, stocks very often come under pressure. The opposite is true when Wall Street hikes its forecasts.

The estimated earnings growth rate for the fourth quarter is now 13.4%, below the 16.7% rate seen at the start of the quarter on Sept. 30, according to FactSet data. All 11 sectors of the S&P 500 have received a decrease in expected earnings growth, led by the utilities, materials, and industrials. Considering its global exposure, it’s no surprise the Industrials sector has been among the hardest hit in terms of downward earnings estimate revisions. Earnings growth for the fourth quarter is seen at 14.5% versus 20.7% at the start of the quarter. The sector’s price has dropped 11.2% during this time, points out FactSet.

Of the 42 companies that have been nailed by a downward profit revision, seven have recorded a decline in their mean earnings estimate of more than 10%. Beaten up General Electric (GE)  has led the way, with its fourth quarter earnings expected to be 22 cents a share versus 36 cents a share at the beginning of the quarter.

GE shares have dropped more than 40% since the fourth quarter commenced.

Your tweetable quote: The race to slash profit forecasts has some wondering if it’s being overdone. “While our economists forecast a deceleration in economic activity from 2.9% in 2018 to 2.5% in 2019, recent equity market performance implies a more dramatic slowdown than our baseline. Accordingly, we believe there is short-term upside to the S&P 500,” said Goldman Sachs strategist David Kostin. Current stock valuations reflect Kostin’s view there may be a short-term buying opportunity. The forward price-to-earnings ratio for the S&P 500 is 15.4 times, below the five-year average of 16.4 times. It’s not that far away from the 10-year average of 14.6 times.

The bottom line: Let the bears do their thing. If trade headlines continue to be less volatile and companies prove a recession in 2019 is highly unlikely, the bulls are likely to kick the bears in the face very soon and charge ahead. As in before 2019 kicks off soon.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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