Interim Data in Focus: Key Events to Watch Before Earnings Season Kicks Off

  • Stock Market Analysis
  • It has been a solid start to 2024 with stocks posting decent gains, but the bond market has laid an egg amid rising interest rates

  • Before earnings season begins, we highlight a handful of potentially market-moving interim reports across sectors

  • These volatility-inducing corporate events may shed light on important areas of the global economy

Markets are putting the finishing touches on the first quarter. Large-cap US stocks have posted solid gains thus far, including upside participation from global equities. Domestic small caps have struggled, though, as the widely discussed “higher for longer” interest-rate narrative plays out. Following last week’s Fed meeting and after robust economic growth trends over recent months, fewer cuts are priced into the bond market today compared to at the start of the year. 

At the firm-specific level, corporate earnings likewise appear strong. The fourth-quarter reporting season was better than expected, cementing an EPS recovery among S&P 500 ® firms. With just two weeks to go from the kickoff of the Q1 earnings season, how’d you like to get a jumpstart on key bellwether indicators and emerging narratives? Look to interim corporate event data for such insights. 

There are few calendar stretches better than the here and now - as we hop into the second quarter. Nearly three months into 2024, executives have a sense of how the new year’s trends are playing out while March’s busy slate of conferences level-set expectations across industries.

This week, we cast the spotlight on four impactful dates that both macro investors and stockpickers should mark on their calendars before the all-important Q1 reporting period gets underway.

March 28: Before the new quarter begins, global investors will receive key updates on March vehicle sales. A host of automakers, including Toyota Motor (NYSE: TM ), Honda Motor (NYSE: HMC ), Subaru (7270.JP), and Mazda (7261.JP) will provide production and sales figures while some non-US OEMs report export numbers. This will offer a glimpse into the dynamic new and used car market. 

Cox Automotive reports that the total US supply of available unsold new vehicles stood at 2.74 million units, a whopping increase from year-ago levels and higher than January’s 2.61 million measure. At 76 days’ supply, dealerships indeed look swelled with inventory as consumers struggle with higher borrowing costs despite a still-healthy jobs market. Ford (NYSE: F ) and General Motors (NYSE: GM ) provide interim sales data the following week.

April 2: All eyes will be on Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA ) on Tuesday next week as the embattled EV company provides vehicle production and delivery statistics. This is a quarterly update, so the report could drum up volatility in what was once a Magnificent Seven darling, now unofficially kicked out of the group of glamour stocks. Shares have rebounded modestly, though Elon Musk lost his title as the world’s richest person earlier this month.

Back in January, Tesla reported Q4 production of 495,000 vehicles and 484,000 deliveries. Full-year deliveries rose 38% to 1.81 million units with a 35% jump in production. But with EV sticker prices in freefall, according to the latest Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, Tesla clearly faces headwinds.

April 8: Shifting gears from EVs to fossil fuels, Shell PLC  is slated to provide its quarterly Update Note on Q1 sales volumes and profit expectations. While the numbers may vary from its full earnings report confirmed to be released on Thursday, May 2 BMO, executives at the $213 billion market cap oil & gas behemoth must be pleased with the more than 15% year-to-date rally in WTI crude oil and 13% rise in Brent oil .

Despite the bullish run in black gold, shares of Shell (LON: SHEL ) are barely in the black thus far in 2024. If the Energy sector stalwart can offer solid quarterly numbers, perhaps Shell’s underperformance to the commodity complex will reverse. 

April 10: If you’re itching for an AI update, look no further than Taiwan Semiconductor (NYSE: TSM ) in two weeks. The semiconductor manufacturer issues its monthly sales report in the early hours on Wednesday, April 10.

TSM’s first-quarter earnings report then comes out on Thursday the following week. With a 30% gain on the year, Taiwan Semi is now the most valuable publicly traded company outside of the US. Shares of the AI player have helped lift both the VanEck Semiconductor ETF (NASDAQ: SMH ) and the iShares MSCI Taiwan ETF (NYSE: EWT ) over recent months.

April 10: Turning back stateside, we can always count on Costco (NASDAQ: COST ) for a refresh on consumer happenings. Both the January and February Retail Sales reports released by the Census Bureau concerned strategists counting on robust consumer spending trends. While weather and seasonal adjustments in January were factors thought to have caused a slowdown in US retail activity, the February report seemed to underscore that there is more caution in goods and services spending. Of course, Costco caters to middle and upper-middle-income shoppers, so the monthly comp-store announcement won’t be a holistic snapshot. The stock endured its worst single-day plunge following the company’s February interim update and quarterly report back on March 8.

The Bottom Line

Staying aware of Interim corporate event data is critical for portfolio managers seeking to manage risk. For all investors, understanding interim data is crucial as it provides insights into a company's performance beyond regular earnings announcements, potentially influencing the overall market. Wall Street Horizon’s Interim Calendar offers increased visibility and may help anticipate events that may draw increased volatility.

The next two weeks will feature market-moving announcements from major domestic and international companies ahead of the Q1 earnings season.

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