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Wall Street expects profits to soar but stocks to flop as Q1 corporate earnings season begins

April 13, 2022, 8:51 AM UTC

JPMorgan Chase, Delta Air Lines, and BlackRock later today kick off the unofficial start to Q1 earnings season, a period that should pack plenty of good news.

But whether investors will see it that way is hardly certain.

According to FactSet, companies in the benchmark S&P 500 will rack up another impressive quarter of profits. In fact, FactSet sees earnings growth topping 10% for a fifth straight quarter. That would be above the five-year average of 8.9%, says FactSet senior analyst John Butters.

Good numbers but bad moods

On Wednesday, U.S. futures were trading up modestly ahead of the first batch of big earnings calls. That’s after stocks sank on Tuesday following knockout inflation numbers and yet more bad news that the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine appears set to grind on and on.

Stagflation, recession, hawkish central banks, and even more war-hawkish Vladimir Putin—it’s all messing with investor sentiment.

Exhibit A: On Tuesday, Bank of America published its closely watched global fund manager survey, and the results were downright gloomy.

The number of investment pros polled by the bank who cite stagflation as a top concern hit a level last seen in 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis. The same survey also showed a record number of fund managers who see global growth falling over the next 12 months.

All of that is reflected in where the fund managers are putting their clients’ money. They’re long safe havens like oil and commodities. They’re short U.S. Treasuries, and they continue to bail from last year’s high-fliers—tech stocks and ESG funds.

The “April FMS is bearish as fear of fast and furious Fed sends global growth optimism to all-time low,” writes BofA chief investment strategist Michael Hartnett in a summary of the fund manager survey. He adds that record pessimism will lead to high volatility in the equities markets. “Though,” he notes, the survey is “not as bearish as war-shocked March FMS.”

Still, he says, “sentiment is poor.” 

Hartnett is the same investment strategist who last week wrote in an investor note that the inflation currently slamming the U.S. economy risks triggering a “recession shock.”

Adding to his bearish credentials, Hartnett advises investors not to sit things out for a while, as the Fed’s tightening strategy will likely drown out any cheers from corporate profits. “We remain in ‘sell-the-rally’ camp as profit-policy setup means Jan/Feb selloff was the appetizer, not main course of ’22,” he writes.

Check out this Fortune must-read: “Oil is entering a New World Order. Here are the big winners and losers”