Amid uncertainty, earnings season will provide some hard numbers to make judgements on
Thursday 14 Jan 2021 Author: Tom Sieber

Investors are having to balance lots of intangible factors right now. First and foremost, they are being forced to guess how the Covid crisis will develop amid an apparent battle to vaccinate populations against a backdrop of soaring infections.

The pace at which we emerge from lockdown restrictions will depend on how quickly vaccines can be rolled out. The current market consensus appears to be that the first quarter will be very difficult with the situation improving rapidly for the economy and wider society from that point on. But ultimately, we just don’t know at this stage.

Elsewhere the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden is a week away and yet the fires stoked by incumbent Donald Trump raise the possibility of his impeachment or removal from office after a mob of his supporters stormed one of the seats of US democracy – the Capitol building in Washington.

We look at some of these events and how Biden’s agenda might shape up in this week’s news section.

Against this uncertain backdrop, the opportunity to ground ourselves in the fundamentals of the latest corporate earnings season is very welcome, as will be the accompanying guidance on trading for 2021.

Results for the final quarter of 2020 have just started feeding through from across the pond. Next week we will have updates from the likes of Bank of America, Netflix, Intel and Proctor & Gamble.

We have a bit longer to wait for major UK releases, with oil majors BP (BP.) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) both updating the market on the final three months of last year in the first week of February. It will be interesting to see what impact the vaccine-inspired recovery in oil prices is having on both businesses.

Helpfully, we have just the article to help you get set for a flood of results as the latest entry in our First Time Investor series is part one of how to read an income statement.

The market has already been digesting a round of Christmas trading updates from the retail sector, with an upbeat statement put out by JD Sports Fashion (JD.) on 11 January a further demonstration of the divergent fortunes experienced by businesses in the teeth of the pandemic.

The Bury-based seller of trainers and ‘athleisure’ gear seems to have adapted rapidly to a lot of its business shifting online and continues to do retail right – getting the right mix of stock, keeping tight control of costs and getting its products in front of its customer base in the right place and at the right time.

The decision to walk away from an opportunistic purchase of Debenhams before Christmas looks more and more like a bullet dodged.

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