A third week of earnings saw both good and bad reports but left the markets virtually where they started with the S&P 500 losing just 12 points on the rocky week. Markets stayed flat for much of the week as traders awaited the GDP growth for the United States in the second quarter. When the number was released on Friday it sunk the markets after it was reported that the U.S. grew by just 2.4% in the most recent quarter. However, equities surged in the final hours of trading as a positive consumer confidence number and a robust reading on the Chicago PMI helped to lift markets into the green to finish the month.
This week, earnings season continues with a special focus on consumer products and chemical industries which make up the bulk of the most important reports. This first week of August also looks to be heavy on data from Europe with several key European companies reporting earnings and the Central Banks of both Great Britain and the Euro zone meeting to discuss rates. The week will end with reports from North America with both the U.S. and Canada giving their monthly unemployment reports which should further help to clarify the degree of recovery in the two industrialized economies. Below, we profile three ETFs that look to be in focus over the next several days as the summer earnings season continues:
iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (EWJ)
Why EWJ Could Be In Focus: The largest component of EWJ, Toyota Motor Corp (TM), reports earnings on Wednesday. The company has been under fire as of late due to its massive recall in the United States which is now approaching half a million cars. While sales are up almost 10% for the quarter, they trail almost every rival in terms of sales growth with their American counterparts posting gains of close to 30%. Additionally, the strong yen has taken a huge cut into the company’s profits so it will be interesting to see what the higher exchange rate has done in terms of lowering industry profits, something which could signal the fortunes of the rest of the export-driven Japanese economy.
Rydex CurrencyShares British Pound Sterling Trust (FXB)
Why FXB Could Be In Focus: Arguably the weakest major economy in Europe is Britain; the country has a large deficit, high unemployment, weak export prospects and does not have the support of stronger common currency members. Due to this continued weakness, the Bank of England’s August policy meeting looks to be of particular interest to investors. While no analyst (of 43 polled) believes that the bank will raise rates, it will be important to see if Melvin King hints at more quantitative easing measures in order to boost the economy. Many in the BoE policy circles have been talking about the need for more stimulus saying that the British economy is too weak to stand on its own, and cannot afford austerity at this time. Should the bank signal more easing measures it is likely to be viewed as a pound-negative event which would send shares of FXB sharply lower this week.
iShares MSCI Netherlands Index Fund (EWN)
Why EWN Could Be In Focus: The fund’s largest component, Unilever (UN), is scheduled to give its quarterly earnings report on Thursday. The company makes up 17.5% of EWN and is a major bellwether for the consumer products industry due to its spot as the third biggest consumer product company in the world and its ownership of some of the world’s most famous brands including; Lipton’s teas, Hellman’s mayonnaise, and Dove soap just to name a few. Weakness in its core European markets as well as higher commodity input prices look to drag down on the company’s results as key ingredients such as sugar and other basic goods have reached new highs in recent weeks. However, the lower euro looks to help to cancel out some of these losses and could push the consumer product giant to growth for the second quarter.
ITA Despite weakness from aerospace giant Boeing (BA) and defense contractor Raytheon (RTN), ITA managed to finish in the green for the week by posting a gain of 0.3%. This came on the back of solid reports from Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman which reported a strong Q2 profit and raised guidance for the rest of 2010 [see holdings of ITA here].
IXC: Big oil had an interesting week with BP, Exxon (XOM), Chevron (CVX) and Conoco (COP) all giving their second quarter results. All companies reported solid earnings while BP unsurprisingly took a loss once oil spill related costs were included. Firms in IXC also saw weakness on the economic outlook and the growing importance of natural gas to companies in the fund since it is often less profitable than crude. As of late Friday, the House passed a bill strengthening the government’s grip over the situation in the Gulf which looks to put the sector again in focus this week; IXC finished the last week in July up just 0.2% [see fundamentals of IXC here].
EWP: EWP’s top component, Banco Santander (STD) reported earnings last week which put the troubled Spanish fund in focus. The company’s second-quarter net profit fell 8 percent as strong revenue growth in Latin America was offset by higher loan losses in the wake of the recession in Europe. Shares of the banking giant were down 1.4% in Madrid after the news but the region was able to rebound nicely as traders grew less concerned with the European economic situation and focused in on sluggish growth in the U.S. and the UK, pushing the fund up to a 1.4% gain on the week.
Disclosure: No positions at this time.
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