Year-End Updates Part III

Today's updates are listed below (with direct hyperlinks). The most significant points are:

1. Two weeks ago, reported earnings per share was identified as one of the most significant vulnerabilities for the stock market. With more companies reporting (now at 61%), the forecast for reported EPS in 2019 slipped below $140 (i.e., $138.05).

However, the $2 decline wasn't lost; analysts added it to the forecast for 2020 (now reflecting a robust 17.6% increase to $162.33). However, if the forecast for 2020 EPS tracks recent years, final EPS for 2020 would deliver near $145 per share.

Here's the revised chart with the most recent forecast updates, including S&P's forecast for 2021: Earnings Trends: History & Future.

2. Most versions of the Crestmont Research Stock Market Matrix, except the one designated as "Year-End," are based upon the average daily closing index across the year.

Average yearly values are more relevant for many investors that dollar-cost average into the market (e.g., most corporate 401(k) plans, many IRAs, and many individual savers that accumulate monthly) and for investors that draw from portfolios across the year (e.g., retirees).

The S&P 500 Index surged in 2019 by 28.9% when measured at year-end. However, the average daily close across 2019 eked-out a 6.1% bump over the average for 2018.

The zig and zag gremlins made up for an opposite result in 2018, when the average daily index rose 12.1% while the year-end index fell -6.2%. Across the two years, both versions were within half a point of a 9.5% annualized gain.

Over the past five years, in the graph below, year-end was higher in price and gain for three of the years and average-daily topped for two. The annualized gains for both methods were within half a point of 9%. Over time, the two methods end at the same place--it is the same index, just different ways of reporting. Nonetheless, year-to-year results often vary substantially, which can impact comparisons investors' results to published index changes.

For this year's Matrix, most versions will reflect a surprisingly small gain. But remember, last year's Matrix reflected gains despite a year-end decline. Beware the distortion from the zig and zag gremlins.

3. As reflected in several updates listed below, the economy is not a consistent driver of the stock market. Nonetheless, optimism about near-term prospects for the economy can provide a strong psychological boost to the market. This is likely to be a continuing driver of the market into 2020.