It's jump ball for earnings season today (as a basketball fan, I detest the "kick-off" cliché) so we'll be hearing a lot about Alcoa (AA), Google (GOOG), JP Morgan (JPM) and Wells Fargo (WFC)-and soon such market stalwarts as Apple (AAPL).
Each earnings period, however, has a stealth stock. A stealth stock is one everyone ignores, even though it stands to define the entire earnings season.
Now I know what you are thinking: both already pre-announced. True enough: last month, Proctor, the consumer giant, pre-announced second-quarter numbers about 6% analysts' estimates of 75 to 79 cents and FedEx, the shipping giant, pre-announced 10% lower than the $1.45-$1.60 range.
All in all, pretty shabby.
But that's not the end of the story. It's common assumption with pre-announcements that the actual earnings announcement will pass nearly unnoticed. That's not nearly the case here, though. Both these companies with fading fortunes are seen as bellwethers.
Don't get sidetracked by the preannouncement, lost in the easy assumption that you know all and any and all damage has been done.
Quite the opposite.
Traders are going to clap their eyes on what the companies say about 2013 with a vengeance-and it won't be pretty. From imposing and increasingly evident troubles in China to the detonation of any notion of an American recovery, the global economy is bad. 2013 looks raw and nasty. Companies-especially economically sensitive ones like Proctor and FedEx-will be running scared. FedEx can't even get a footing with the secular change toward online shopping from outfits like Amazon (AMZN) and all the added business that provides.
The economy stinks. 2013 is a big open sore of a question. A pre-announcement won't solve any of that.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.