Brocker.Org: ‘Big tech Thursday’ could be the catalyst for new highs

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Thursday’s blast of high-profile earnings, including big tech bellwethers, could help set the stage for new stock market highs in the very near future.

There’s a rush of earnings Thursday morning, including Union Pacific, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford, American Airlines, Comcast, Dow Chemical, Raytheon and Deutsche Bank, to name a few.

But some of the tech names that have led the market’s gains report after the closing bell and could be big catalysts into Friday’s trading. That includes Amazon.com, up 21 percent year to date, and Alphabet, which has risen 12 percent. Microsoft, Intel and Starbucks also report after the close.

There are risks to that scenario, including the fact that Congress still needs to pass a resolution to keep the government funded by Friday, though it is expected to happen. There are also wild cards, like the worrisome tensions with North Korea.

Another factor that markets are warily watching is the string of softening data reports. Thursday data includes March durable goods orders, weekly jobless claims and advanced economic indicators, all at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists have been cutting forecasts for first-quarter GDP, expected Friday, but are hopeful the second quarter will bounce back. JPMorgan lowered its forecast to 0.4 percent for the first quarter on Wednesday.

Stocks slid into the close Wednesday, in a sell-the-news move after President Donald Trump’s much anticipated tax plan. The proposal contained a juicy corporate tax cut but was viewed as short on details and likely to be seriously modified. Nonetheless, it is an opening round in what is expected to be months of horse trading on taxes.

“People are somewhat optimistic, but they wanted more detail,” said Doron Barness, head of global equities trading at Oppenheimer. He said what the market is really focusing on are the nearby highs, like 2,400 on the S&P 500. That index closed Wednesday at 2,387, down 1 point. The Nasdaq was just under its high, set Tuesday, closing at 6,025, and the Dow was off 21 at 20,975. The Russell 2000 closed at a new all-time high of 1,419.

“We’ve had some soft economic data, but people are ignoring that. You have North Korea stuff going on. People are ignoring that. Those are the kind of things that could bring the market down if more economic data comes out that’s weaker and there’s something geopolitical. But absent that, I don’t see how the market doesn’t go higher. People are not going to sell this market,” said Barness.

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