Will the 'relief rally' last?

The Apple logo of a store in Munich, Germany.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Corporate profit reports have moved on from the banks. It's technology and transportation this week and kind of a mixed bag. Apple said late yesterday iPhone sales drove a 15 percent jump in profits. This morning, though, bellwether UPS reported its earnings were down by more than half. And after the close today, Microsoft disappointed too. So we asked Marketplace's Amy Scott which it is: Good economic news or bad?


AMY SCOTT: Some analysts call the recent stock rebound a "relief rally." As in, investors are relieved things aren't as bad as they feared. Apple, eBay, Intel, and a handful of banks are just a sampling of the companies reporting better-than-expected earnings.

Charles Lieberman is chief investment officer with Advisers Capital Management. He says some companies, including Apple, are notorious for setting low expectations so they can exceed them.

CHARLES LIEBERMAN: But when you're at a turning point in the economy, as I think we are, expectations and reality can deviate very, very widely.

Lieberman happens to think the market has truly bottomed. Stephen Wood is more in the "relief rally" camp. He's a strategist with Russel Investments. Wood says overall earnings are down for the seventh quarter in a row. But their rate of decline is slowing. And investors don't seem so worried the entire economy's going to collapse.

STEPHEN WOOD: I think we've gone from this rampant systemic worries, to a more appropriate longer-term worries about specific corporate performance in a specific quarter.

But a specific company's earnings don't tell us a whole lot about where the wider economy is headed. Fred Dickson is chief strategist with D.A. Davidson and Company.

FRED DICKSON: The information coming out really gives us kinda a very near-term rear-window picture of what's happened, and also what may be coming up in the next half-mile to one mile in the economy. Past that there are still a lot of question marks.

For Dickson, the big question mark is when people will start buying stuff again. Beyond iPhones, that is.

He says we may get a glimpse when retailers start reporting their quarterly earnings next month.

In New York, I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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