Forget Geopolitics, Earnings Are What's Pushing the S&P Higher

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The stock market has risen on the earnings from three-quarters of the reporting S&P 500 companies, said Pete Najarian, co-founder of optionmonster.com and trademonster.com. 

That's a nice change from the recent negative geopolitical headlines, although those headlines created buying opportunities, Najarian said during CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report." He added the volatility index has pulled back significantly. 

Geopolitical headlines have weighed on U.S. equities until recently, agreed Stephen Weiss, founder and managing partner of Short Hills Capital Partners LLC. The U.S. economy is the best investment right now, which is why U.S. stocks have risen sharply. He likes health care stocks and Macy's (M) . 

"Did the Santa Clause Rally come early?" asked Joseph Terranova, chief market strategist for Virtus Investment Partners. He thinks many investors are being "massively fooled" right now after the rapid rebound in stock prices and the stabilization of oil prices. Stocks aren't done going higher, countered Mike Murphy, founder of Rosecliff Capital. 

Jay Bowen, CEO of Bowen, Hanes & Company and one of the top pension fund investors in the country, said central bank monetary policy around the world is what is fueling stocks.

The Bank of Japan's surprise stimulus announcement caught most investors off guard and the European Central Bank could announce its own version of stimulus later this week, he said. His top picks include Nestle (NSRGF) , Novartis (NVS) and International Paper (IP) . 

Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings (LH) is down by 8.5% and was the first stock on the show's "Trader Blitz" segment. Labcorp announced it will acquire Covance (CVD) for $5.6 billion. The synergies here are powerful, Najarian said, but investors should wait a few months before buying the stock. 

Murphy said he is long Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (BWP)  and said the stock seems poised to return to $21. Terranova said to stay long Marriott International (MAR) and Hilton Worldwide Holdings (WLT) and Weiss said to buy Facebook (FB) over Twitter (TWTR) and Google (GOOGL) .

Visa (V)  President Ryan McInerney said the rollout of Apple's (AAPL) Apple Pay is "going great." Visa is focused on many different digital solutions for merchants and consumers, and those initiatives should begin rolling out in January. 

Visa is a high-quality company but the recent move higher is too much, Murphy said. He is a buyer back near $190 per share. Visa and MasterCard (MA) are likely to suffer from pricing pressure, which will benefit consumers, he said. 

The companies don't charge the fees to consumers, Weiss argued, they charge the merchants with fees. Visa has a "great brand and excellent management." The valuation seems high, but for Visa it's always high because it's such a high-quality company. The company is the frontrunner in the digital payments space and should continue to benefit immensely from the shift into that industry. 

Alibaba (BABA)  reports its quarterly results on Tuesday. Najarian likes the stock on the long side but said the P/E ratio is a little high. Murphy disagreed, arguing the risk-to-reward ratio no longer looks attractive. 

"I wouldn't buy it right now," Weiss said. But investors, if interested, can buy shares for the long term and not let one quarter of earnings affect their decision. 

For their final trades, Murphy is buying Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ) and Weiss said to buy Apple. Najarian is a buyer of Intel (INTC) and Terranova is buying C.H. Robinson Worldwide (CHRW) . 

-- Written by Bret Kenwell

Follow @BretKenwell

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