Bespoke Investment Group’s Paul Hickey expects stocks to buck a bearish earnings season pattern that emerged earlier this year.
Each time the backdrop supported upside, sell-offs ravaged the market due to the U.S.-China trade war, the firm’s co-founder said.
“In the first say four weeks of both of those earnings seasons, the market did very well and was trading higher,” Hickey told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday. “The rally was derailed not because of some weak earnings reports, but because President Trump issued tweets and suggesting … an escalation of the trade war.”
Hickey tracks the trouble in a chart showing trade-related S&P 500 sell-offs during the past two earnings seasons.
But this earnings season, according to Hickey, is different because trade risks are fading.
“We have a temporary reprieve from the trade headlines here for the coming weeks,” said Hickey. “We had the constant back and forth and the phase one agreement. And, as light as you want to call it, we did get passed that big event, and the market has held up well.”
Since Friday’s announcement by President Donald Trump of a preliminary deal with Beijing, stocks have been inching closer to all-time highs set in July. The Dow and S&P 500 are on track to see their second positive week in a row.
Similar to the last two earnings cycles, Hickey noted that analyst sentiment surrounding earnings is bearish, a scenario that typically bodes well for stocks. Right now, he sees negative analyst revisions outnumbering positive ones by more than 2 to 1.
“Normally when you see this weak analyst sentiment heading into earnings season, it sets the bar low,” he said. “Then the companies do better and stocks go higher.”
Hickey contends the scenario is clearing the runway for gains as trade war fears move to the “back burner.”
“I don’t think we’ll hear much about the ongoing trade escalation with China until at least we get to the later stage of earnings season, if we see it at that point at all,” Hickey said.