NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Kind of an anticlimactic end to October's furious rally but the S&P 500 did manage a gain of 10.8% for the month when the dust cleared. That's the strongest performance since December 1991, according to research firm Birinyi Associates, and impressive considering how dire the situation seemed at midday on Oct. 4, when the S&P 500 was flirting with bear market territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished October with the largest monthly point gain in its history. Year-to-date, the blue-chip index, which gave up 12,000 again, is now up 3.3%. The top Dow performers in October were Caterpillar ( CAT), rising 28%; DuPont ( DD), adding 20.8%; Travelers ( TRV), gaining 20.3%; Cisco Systems ( CSCO), advancing 19.3%; and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), tacking on 19%. All 30 components in the Dow rose with Verizon Communications ( VZ), making the least headway, nudging up just 0.7%. So what does it mean for November, which is historically a pretty good month for stocks? Birinyi says that the month after a 10% gain in the S&P 500 has been positive 67% of the time. And following a 10%-plus gain in the index, stocks have gone on to add another 1.4% on average. A double-digit percentage rise is a tough act to follow in any kind of market. In one this volatile (the VIX stopped Monday just short of its elevated worry level of 30), the bulls would be getting greedy if they frowned on a 1%-plus boost from here. The headlines from Europe, of course, will have a lot to say about where the coming month ends up. If anticipation of a concrete deal to address the sovereign debt crisis across the pond was the main driver of October's buying, along with strong earnings, the deal that European Union leaders came up with last week has a lot on its shoulders. As the scrutiny increases, so may the profit taking. This week also brings some key U.S. events -- the Federal Reserve meeting that starts Tuesday and the October jobs report on Friday -- selling some winners may also look like a fine idea if those headlines disappoint. And then there's earnings season, where we're over the hump, but maybe not out of the woods. One interesting development is that the strength in calendar third-quarter numbers isn't leading to analysts getting more bullish about the current calendar fourth quarter.
FactSet Research noted on Friday that, by its calculations, the average analysts' earnings estimate for the S&P 500 for the fourth quarter has declined by 3.3% to $25.03 from where it stood on Sept. 30 at $25.82. This change comes even as the broad market has rallied virtually all month, and third-quarter results have topped the consensus view 77% of the time, FactSet said. "
T his 3% decline reflects the sharpest drop in earnings expectations for the first month of a quarter since Q2 2009, when earnings estimates fell 7% during the month of April 2009," the firm said. "It is interesting to note the last two times the bottoms-up EPS estimate decreased significantly while the price of the market increased significantly over the first month of a quarter were Q2 2008 and Q2 2009." Those quarters of course came right around key market moves, namely the onset of the financial crisis in September-October 2008, and the subsequent bottom for the stock market that came in early March 2009. Where analysts take their estimates for the rest in the next two months before the calendar fourth quarter wraps will be interesting to follow. In the second quarter of 2008, estimates continued lower, and the market soon followed. In the second quarter of 2009, estimates improved, and stocks took off, ending the quarter 15% above where they started. Tuesday's notable quarterly reports are headlined by Pfizer ( PFE), JDS Uniphase ( JDSU), and the always heavily traded Sirius XM Radio ( SIRI). Sirius XM gets the deep-dive treatment here. Shares of the satellite radio company have held tough so far in 2011, rising more than 12%. Like the broad market, the stock has endured a volatile October, plumbing a 52-week low of $1.27 on Oct. 4 but then rallying back to close at $1.84 on Friday, a 45% swing. The average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for earnings of a penny per share in the September-ended period on revenue of $764.3 million. Sirius has been profitable in the past three quarters, and if the company can meet expectations on the top line, it will represent sequential revenue growth of 2%; not exactly gangbusters but better than flatlining.
The big long-term challenges to getting Sirius' stock up above the cost of a latte remain its debt load of more than $3 billion (vs. cash on the books of around $530 million), and the nearly 3.7 billion common shares in the public float. Wall Street is bullish though with 8 of the 12 sell-side analysts covering the stock at either strong buy (3) or buy (5), and the 12-month median price target at $2.70. Wunderlich Securities previewed the report earlier Monday, saying it expects "good" results, despite the U.S. consumer still being challenged, and that subscriber numbers will get the bulk of attention. The firm is in line with the consensus view for a profit of a penny per share, and has a hold rating on the stock with a $2 price target. "We estimate that SIRI gained 397K customers in 3Q11 vs. 335K for 2Q10, with the September quarter providing 24.5% of net 2011 adds v. 23.6% last year," Wunderlich wrote. "U.S. auto sales were 3.175mm in Q211 v. 3.06mm for the year-earlier quarter, implying a tailwind during the September period but we have conversion rate falling to 46.6% from 48.1% last year with a conservative 62.5% installation rate. We have the retail component at a 161K loss vs. 189K a year ago, although the albatross from this bucket is stabilizing." The firm still has questions about what will happen with Howard Stern, who is unhappy and wants his compensation tied to subscriber growth, and how the company's mobile and online strategy will shape up. But it sees a "major" opportunity in efforts by Sirius to move into the used car space. "Early trial results with CPO
certified pre-owned and used car dealers are "surprisingly" good although obviously not as as strong as on new cars," Wunderlich wrote. "We assume only 5% penetration for this market in 2015, although sensitivities suggest major upside. Even a 7.5% penetration rate for used vehicles with installed ratios would increase our price target by nearly twenty cents - a complete game changer that could almost model the earlier evolution away from Best Buy ( BBY) and toward new cars."
Other brand names on the morning roster include A.M. Castle ( CAS), AmerisourceBergen ( ABC), Archer Daniels Midland ( ADM), Baker Hughes ( BHI), Checkpoint Systems ( CKP), CME Group ( CME), Corinthian Colleges ( COCO), Credit Suisse Group ( CS), Dollar Thrifty Automotive ( DTG), Emerson Electric ( EMR), Entergy ( ETR), FirstEnergy ( FE), Fresh Del Monte Produce ( FDP), Gartner ( IT), HCA ( HCA), Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia ( MSO), Martin Marietta Materials ( MLM), MetroPCS Communications ( PCS), NICOR ( GAS), Oshkosh Truck ( OSK), Radian Group ( RDN), Steve Madden Ltd. ( SHOO), Tenet Healthcare ( THC), Valero Energy ( VLO), and Watson Pharmaceuticals ( WPI). The after-hours brigade includes Amerda Hess Corp. ( AHC), American Capital Strategies ( ACAS), Atmel Corp. ( ATML), Becton, Dickinson & Co. ( BDX), Boston Beer ( SAM), Charles River Laboratories ( CRL), Denny's Corp. ( DENN), Fiserv ( FISV), Hain Celestial ( HAIN), Hertz Global ( HTZ), Kforce ( KFRC), Leapfrog Enterprises ( LF), MicroStrategy ( MSTR), OpenTable ( OPEN), Papa John's International ( PZZA), Peet's Coffee & Tea ( PEET), Pitney Bowes ( PBI), Powerwave Technologies ( PWAV), Sanmina-SCI ( SANM), and True Religion Apparel ( TRLG). The lead datapoint on Tuesday is the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for October at 10 a.m. ET. The consensus is looking for an increase to 52.1 from September's reading of 51.6. Briefing.com sees the number coming in higher, at 53, but also says it views the index as "highly overrated" because it's derived from a survey of purchasing managers and doesn't give any weight to the size of a firm or the degree that they say conditions are getting better or worse. As for the recent trend, a bounce up would be a decent sign, validating September's move off the recent lows just above 50 in August and July. Nothing to get too excited about, given that a reading above 50 is the delineator between growth and contraction, so we're still seeing pretty sluggish growth, a message the market has already received. Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, who sees a nudge up to 53, views the trend this way. "The key point is that the ISM is no longer rolling over; the risk of deeply disconcerting readings in the 40s has greatly diminshed," he wrote. Tuesday also brings auto and truck sales for November in the afternoon, and construction spending for September at 10 a.m. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com