As sexual assault allegations against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump accumulate, the U.S. presidential election is devolving into a a lurid reality television spectacle more worthy of "The Jerry Springer Show" than the world's most powerful nation.
Add low expectations for corporate earnings and the likely prospect of higher interest rates, and the result is a toxic miasma of dread over Wall Street.
In a "red alert" issued Oct. 13, the investment strategists at HSBC (HSBC) warned that "the possibility of a severe fall in the stock market is now very high." They further indicated that recent stock market moves were similar to those that occurred immediately before "Black Monday" in 1987, which marked the largest one-day market crash in history.
The S&P 500 (SPY - Get Report) is up 4.54% year to date, but it has fallen 1.26% over the past month and 1.09% over the past five days. Are even sharper declines ahead? We highlight the events to monitor and how to prepare.
The next presidential debate is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19. If you're wondering whether these singularly unenlightened slug-fests affect stocks, they do. Investors hate uncertainty, and Donald Trump generates uncertainty like no presidential candidate in modern memory. In the lead up to previous debates between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, stocks took a steep dive.
"The typical investor just can't contemplate the possibility of a Trump victory," says Cary Leahey, chief U.S. economist at Decision Economics.
It's also revealing that analysts at Societe General have recommended that clients Trump-proof their portfolios with "safe haven" assets such as gold and exchange-traded notes indexed to the CBOE Volatility Index, such as the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Future ETN (VXX) .
To be sure, Trump is losing badly. The highly respected polling outfit 538, considered the gold standard for gauging public opinion, now gives the bombastic billionaire less than a 15% chance of winning the election. But the coming days will be rocky for investors, especially as companies unveil earnings scorecards that are likely to disappoint, and traders brace for an almost sure Federal Reserve tightening before the year ends.
And as the two previous presidential debates have shown, anything can happen on that debate stage.
Investors needn't panic and run for the exits. The wisest course of action is to keep your powder dry, stick to "defensive growth" blue chips, and simply wait out the storm.
As of Oct. 14, the research firm FactSet estimated that the blended earnings decline for the S&P 500 in the third quarter would be -1.8%. If this decline comes to pass, it would mark the first time the index recorded six consecutive quarters of year-over-year declines since FactSet began tracking the data in Q3 2008, which if you'll recall was an especially dismal time for global markets.
Here are the major earnings reports to watch in the week ahead, with Capital IQ's estimated earnings compared with the figure posted in the same quarter a year ago:
Tuesday: Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) ($3.82 vs. $2.90); Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) ($1.65 vs. $1.49); Philip Morris International (PM - Get Report) ($1.23 vs. $1.24); UnitedHealth (UNH - Get Report) ($2.08 vs. $1.65); Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) ($1.77 vs. $2.74); and Intel (INTL - Get Report) (72 cents vs. 64 cents).
Wednesday: Abbott Laboratories (ABT - Get Report) (58 cents vs. 54 cents); Halliburton (HAL - Get Report) (-7 cents vs. 31 cents); Reynolds American (RAI) (64 cents vs. 55 cents); U.S. Bancorp (USB - Get Report) (83 cents vs. 81 cents); and American Express (AXP - Get Report) (95 cents vs. $1.24).
Thursday: Alaska Air Group (ALK - Get Report) ($2.04 vs. $2.16); Dunkin' Brands (DNKN - Get Report) (58 cents vs. 52 cents); Illinois Tool Works (ITW - Get Report) ($1.49 vs. $1.39); Textron (TXT - Get Report) (59 cents vs. 53 cents); Union Pacific (UNP - Get Report) ($1.49 vs. $1.50); Verizon Communications (VZ - Get Report) (99 cents vs. $1.04); and Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA - Get Report) (99 cents vs. 88 cents).
WALGREENS BOOTS ALLIANCE and GENERAL ELECTRIC are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells WBA or GE? Learn more now.
In the week ahead, the noteworthy economic reports on the calendar include Industrial Production (Monday); the Consumer Price and Housing Market indices (Tuesday); Housing Starts (Wednesday); Jobless Claims, Consumer Comfort and Existing Home Sales (Thursday); and the Baker Hughes (BHI) rig count (Friday).
As we've just explained, HSBC is warning that a market crash is imminent. When it hits, weak companies and their investors will get wiped out. Don't let that happen to you! I've found seven companies you should own no matter what the economy is doing. Each one of these powerful yet overlooked companies barely notices when the market tumbles. And they'll skyrocket when it rebounds. You can pick up all seven for pennies on the dollar right now. To get the names of these "seven survivor stocks," click here.