What pushes U.S. stocks up 11 pct in half a year?

Updated 2017-08-03 10:30:48 Xinhua

The Dow Jones industrial average broke above 22,000 on Wednesday, notching the third milestone this year, as investors cheered over better-than-expected quarterly earnings while being quite immune to soft economic data and policy uncertainties under Trump administration.

The Dow has risen 11 percent in 2017, hitting the first milestone of 20,000 in late January, and crossing the 21,000 mark in just 24 trading day on March 1, fueled by investor euphoria after last year's presidential election.

The surge in the first quarter was always referred to as the Trump rally, because investors had high expectations for U.S. President Donald Trump to fulfill his promise of tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending.

Trump was eager to take credit this time as well.

"Stock Market could hit all-time high (again) 22,000 today... Mainstream media seldom mentions!" he tweeted Tuesday. Three days earlier, he tweeted, "U.S. Stock Market up almost 20% since Election!"

"The recent U.S. equity market peaks display confidence by investors that the Trump Administration will eventually gain traction in its pro-business initiatives, and that these will boost corporate profits, wages and inflation," Humberto Garcia, Head of Global Asset Allocation for Leumi Investment Services Inc., told Xinhua.

While equity market euphoria had not been squashed by slow initial progress on Trump's pro-business agenda, analysts said it may be inappropriate to give Trump full credit as investors mainly focused on second-quarter earnings and monetary policy.

Apple announced Tuesday after closing bell quarterly revenue of 45.4 billion U.S. dollars and quarterly earnings per diluted share of 1.67 dollars. Analysts polled by Reuters expected earnings per share of 1.57 dollars on revenue of 44.89 billion U.S. dollars.

Shares of the tech giant rallied 4.73 percent on Wednesday, pushing the Dow above the 22,000 mark.

This earning season has been strong so far. Latest data from Thomson Reuters showed 70 percent of the S&P 500 companies have reported their second-quarter earnings per share so far and 72.3 percent of them have beaten Wall Street's expectations. Historical average showed 64 percent of the companies beat expectations in a typical quarter.

Data also showed that the S&P 500 companies' blended earnings in the second quarter are expected to rise 11.4 percent year on year, while the revenues are forecast to increase 4.9 percent.

Meanwhile, investors have been betting that the Fed will not be able to tighten as much as it expects given the latest soft data.

Wall Street largely expects the Fed to raise interest rate again in December and some doubt whether there will be a third rate hike. Expectations for a rate hike in December stood only at 42.5 percent, according to CME Group's FedWatch Tool Wednesday.

"Persistently low inflation readings and a tightening labor market in the U.S. point to continued monetary accommodation with low interest rates and a slow and measured reduction of the Fed balance sheet," said Garcia.

Meanwhile, analysts also voiced concerns about high equity valuation.

"Heightened leverage may help to explain high equity valuations, as cheap money allows margin purchases of stocks: client margin balances at NYSE dealers stand at 2.6 percent of total S&P 500 market cap, at the upper end of their 1.4 percent to 2.9 percent range since 2000," said Garcia.

"This high leverage can accelerate and magnify the effects of a market downturn," he added.

The cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio, a closely watched stock valuation measure developed by economist Robert Shiller, was over 30 and near its highest historical levels.

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