Updated from 6:04 p.m. ET to include added information about PetSmart being named to join the S&P 500. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Maybe QE3 is more a market savior than accelerator? That's the sentiment of David Bianco, chief U.S. equity strategist at Deutsche Bank, who doesn't see any reason to boost his S&P 500 target for 2012 in the wake of the Federal Reserve's pledge of maximum accommodation until the economic recovery solidifies and shows signs of real traction. "Recent economic reports suggest that the Fed's latest stimulus efforts were ahead of the curve," he said in commentary on Monday. "Unfortunately, 1H12 US GDP growth disappointed and US exports and manufacturing sharply decelerated through 3Q12. We welcome the Fed's actions given these disappointments and we are encouraged to see monetary policy ahead of the curve, but we would have preferred to see US and global growth improve. Thus, we do not see QE3 as a positive to our 1475 year-end S&P 500 target, but rather an offset to the negative developments in US exports, US investment spending and global manufacturing activity." Bianco isn't expecting third-quarter earnings season to be a boon to market sentiment either. According to data from Thomson Reuters, analysts are currently anticipating a 2.1% year-over-year decline in earnings from the components of the S&P 500, a performance that would provide scant reason to put money into equities at this stage of the game. "3Q reporting is likely to exacerbate investor anxiety about growth and elections," Bianco said. "Energy and Materials will bear the brunt of the y/y decline in 3Q EPS, but subpar growth is expected at all sectors. Five sectors expected to post y/y EPS declines and more than 5% growth at the rest. Weak 3Q EPS may not shock investors, but fewer companies beating and more missing estimates will exacerbate pre-election investor anxiety. 5 of the 20 Aug. qtr-end companies to report missed." Tobias Levkovich, chief U.S. equity strategist at Citigroup, was also putting a spotlight on third-quarter results, which will start dribbling in later this month with Alcoa ( AA) kicking things off for the Dow on Oct. 9. "With more than 120 S&P 500 companies having pre-announced thus far, the trend is quite adverse, with a negative-to-positive ratio of 4.3, the highest level since 1Q09's 4.7 and 4Q08's 4.0. Moreover, this compares to more favorable ratios of 2.6 in 3Q11 and 3.3 in 2Q12," he said.
Levkovich was already looking ahead to the fourth quarter too, saying it's "implausible" to think corporations will be able to meet current Wall Street expectations. "The good news is that investors already believe that projections are too high," he said, adding that earnings calls this time around are likely to be rife with executive obfuscation. "The US election and the components of fiscal cliff resolution may contribute to a lack of management confidence in corporate conference calls," Levkovich said. "Various reports, from the Business Roundtable to the National Federation of Independent Business, all suggest that Corporate America is worried about the economic outlook and this concern should make leaders reluctant to overpromise much for the next several months. Indeed, this anxiety should not come as a surprise given the political inability to address the tax/spending issues until after the Presidential elections." Judging by Monday's action, investors are still feeling skittish. Yes, September's ISM index was the strongest reading in four months but all it took was Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stating the obvious to knock stocks off their early perch. Just because there have already been so many warnings and the expectation is for earnings growth to be negative, that doesn't mean the decline won't be deeper than even these red flags indicate. After all, what if Apple ( AAPL), the other savior for stocks, isn't able to blow away the monster expectations for the iPhone 5? The early rush to buy the smartphone was apparently underwhelming -- judging by the stock's reaction -- and a rare misstep with its Maps application as well as supply issues seem to have taken some of the shine off Tim Cook's tech colossus, which has now lost ground in five of the past six sessions after Monday's 1%-plus decline. "Our checks of 237 Apple stores suggest continued solid demand for iPhone 5, and we have not seen any data points that suggest a more severe supply constraint than originally assumed," said Citigroup, striking a more measured tone than sell-side research on Apple typically takes. "Apple shares have modestly underperformed since 9/24 (-5% vs. -2% S&P500) on lower-than-expected, first weekend iPhone 5 sales, which we believe was more of a supply issue. 74% of Apple Retail Stores we contacted last week had no iPhone 5 units in stock at the time. Some investors are concerned by iPhone 5's LTE coverage in Europe potentially hampering demand. While its limited coverage is factually correct, the actual impact on iPhone 5 adoption should be limited."
After closing Monday at $659.39, Apple shares have surrendered 6.5% since hitting an all-time intraday high of $705.07 on Sept. 21, and like the broad market, there may be more room (and catalysts) to go down rather than up as 2012 draws to a close over the next few months. As for Tuesday's scheduled news, notable earnings reports are few and far between. The biggest names are Acuity Brands ( ACU), Mosaic ( MOS), Resources Connection ( RECN), Xyratex ( XRTX). The economic calendar is light as well with just auto and truck sales on tap later in the afternoon. And finally, shares of Blyth ( BTH) were big movers to the upside in Monday's after-hours action after the Greenwich, Conn.-based direct-to-consumer marketing company reached a deal to defer the closing of its purchase of its ViSalus weight-loss products business until April 2014. The agreement also includes a new employment agreement with ViSalus founders Ryan Blair, Blake Mallen and Nick Sarnicola, as well as an equity incentive program for the business's management team. The stock was last quoted at $28.74, up 7.4%, on late volume of more than 330,000, according to Nasdaq.com. Additionally, PetSmart ( PETM) was seeing a boost of nearly 3% after the pet products retailer was named to join the S&P 500, replacing Sunoco ( SUN), which is being acquired by Energy Transfer Partners ( ETP). The change, which is expected to occur on after the close of trading on Thursday, will prompt Cabela's ( CAB) to replace PetSmart in the S&P MidCap 400, and Acorda Therapeutics ( ACOR) to take Cabela's spot in the S&P SmallCap 600. The news is typically a short-term positive for the stocks as fund managers matching the performance of the respective indices have to build positions. -- Written by Michael Baron in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.