Perhaps the real "October surprise" is that we're all dead and this U.S. presidential election is hell.
Political anxiety continues to overshadow what's actually been some good news lately for the economy and markets. Until the Nov. 8 election is over, investors should focus on the fundamentals and keep their powder dry.
The Hillary Clinton campaign received a nasty shock late on Friday, with the disclosure by the FBI that it had discovered potential new evidence in its inquiry into Clinton's handling of her personal email when she was Secretary of State. The revelation sparked a frenzy among the barking seals on cable television, leading to erroneous claims that Clinton may have broken the law.
The fact is, none of the emails were to or from Clinton. Moreover, the FBI has not "reopened" the case, despite widespread claims by the GOP and the media. The new evidence pertains to the FBI's unrelated inquiry into former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner's "sexting" scandal.
Nonetheless, the fallout unnerved the Clinton campaign and weighed on financial markets. After being up for most of the day, the S&P 500 (SPY) - Get Report ended Friday with a decline of 0.30%. A pattern has emerged during this soul-abrading campaign: stocks typically swoon when news is positive for Donald Trump, which shows where Wall Street's preferences lie.
The media circus on Friday swept positive news under the rug. Notably, just as oil prices found a bottom this year, it appears that the earnings recession has finally ended.
According to the research firm FactSet, the blended estimated third-quarter earnings results for the S&P 500 is 1.6%, which is above the year-over-year blended decline of -0.5% at the end of last week. If the index reports growth in earnings for the quarter, it will mark the first time the index has seen year-over-year growth in earnings since the first quarter of 2015, which posted growth of 0.5%.
The sectors with the greatest momentum now are banking and aerospace/defense. As you position your portfolio for the fourth quarter and 2017, the blue chips in these two rebounding sectors are smart bets amid a volatile broader market that's nervous about hyperpartisan politics. Also making investors jittery is the Federal Reserve's likely intention to hike interest rates by the end of the year.
All 22 of the S&P 500's financials services sector's companies reported third-quarter earnings above expectations. In particular, the investment banking operations of the money center banks had a stellar quarter. Notably, Bank of America's (BAC) - Get Report investment banking segment racked up the best third-quarter performance in five years, which contributed to overall earnings per share of 41 cents, exceeding expectations and 7.9% above the previous year.
Another stand out sector has been aerospace/defense. Last week, defense giants Lockheed Martin (LMT) - Get Report , Boeing (BA) - Get Report , Raytheon (RTN) - Get Report , and Northrop Grumman (NOC) - Get Report all reported third-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street's expectations.
Meanwhile, the government released encouraging data on Friday, showing that U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 2.9% annual rate from July through September compared with the same period a year ago, the fastest economic growth in two years and exceeding expectations of 2.5%.
The top earnings reports to watch during the week of Oct. 31: Monday: Anadarko Petroleum (APC) - Get Report ; Tuesday: Freddie Mac (FMCC) , Pfizer (PFE) - Get Report ; Wednesday: Facebook (FB) - Get Report , Whole Foods Market (WFM) ; Thursday: Fannie Mae (FNMA) , Starbucks (SBUX) - Get Report ; Friday: Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) - Get Report .
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Major economic reports on the docket in the week ahead: Tuesday: Motor Vehicle Sales; PMI Manufacturing Index, Construction Spending; Wednesday: MBA Mortgage Applications, Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index; Thursday: Chain Store Sales, Jobless Claims; Friday: Employment Situation.
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John Persinos is an investment analyst at Investing Daily. He's also a defense analyst with the aerospace consultancy Teal Group. At the time of publication, he owned stock in Boeing and Raytheon.