NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- It would be easy to blame the S&P 500's 50-point intra-day pullback from a September peak on quarterly corporate numbers alone. After all, roughly one-quarter of companies have reported and a mere 60% surpassed earnings expectations -- a "beat rate" that is lower than at any other point since the bull market began in early 2009.
Even more disconcerting? Only 40% of firms have exceeded revenue targets, demonstrating that the slowdown in sales is widespread.
At the same time, the likelihood of unimpressive quarterly results had been discussed by analysts and media pundits at great length. Are we now resorting to the easiest target to explain profit taking and risk avoidance?
There are equally compelling arguments to be made about the nature of risk-taking itself. Specifically, near-term market direction may be overwhelmed by a wider array of uncertainties than had previously existed.For example, near-term markets had previously "priced in" little change in the White House with an Obama victory and little change in Congress with the House remaining in Republican hands. While some might argue that the race was always going to be close, it was Romney's October surprise in the debates that has revived talk about "hanging chads," "voter fraud," and a "Year 2000 scenario" in November. Why would an uncertain election outcome be particularly devastating in 2012? Without a clear winner, resolution on the fiscal cliff issues might not be attainable at all; Congress wouldn't be able to fully negotiate with the executive branch. Indeed, there are few uncertainties that have as much crash-provoking power as paralysis in the U.S. government. It happened in August 2011 over the debt ceiling and it can happen again over a much