Top executives are loving life right now, despite the bull market in stocks disintegrating.
Optimism among S&P 500 I:GSPC executives continues to hover around record highs, according to several data dives done by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. With profit growth this year poised for a jolt from tax reform, it's hard not blame execs for back-slaps inside their cushy corner offices.
The three-month ratio of above-consensus versus below-consensus management guidance has fallen off its late-2017 peak, but at 1.1 times, is still nearly double its long-term average of 0.6 times says BofA. Execs that did speak during the return of market volatility in March stayed with their optimistic stance. While guidance was sparse in March, the one-month ratio of 0.9 times was also above the historical March average of 0.7 times.
In addition to "hard data" (guidance), "soft data" (management commentary) is also supportive of continued strength in earnings, notes BofA.
"Mentions of "better" relative to "worse" or "weaker" on fourth-quarter earnings calls were at an all-time high in our data history since 2003, and mentions of optimism were well above average," says BofA's top equities strategist Savita Subramanian.
Although this may provide a sense of comfort for the bulls, the reality is that the market is truth. And the current truth being priced into benchmark indices such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average I:DJI and Nasdaq Composite I:IXIC suggests trade war fears, selloffs in high-flyers such as Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report and Facebook (FB) - Get Report and elevated inflation is not being appreciated by top execs. In turn, that could cause execs to adjust guidance -- and hurt the market in the process -- when first-quarter earnings start hitting the wires this month.