Stocks Down Despite Upbeat Earnings


Stocks remain broadly lower in afternoon trading despite a slew of positive earnings releases. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down by 27 points, or 0.2%.

The losses are at first perplexing, given the number of positive earnings reports out today. This morning both JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs announced robust fourth-quarter and fiscal 2012 profits.

In JPMorgan's case, the nation's largest bank by assets made $21 billion last year despite writing off $6 billion due to the London Whale scandal. And, as my colleague Matt Koppenheffer put it, just like Charlie Sheen, Goldman Sachs is winning -- again. The hallowed investment bank blew away analyst estimates today, reporting fourth-quarter earnings per share of $5.60 versus a consensus forecast of $3.78.

On the heels of these announcements, both of the Dow's banking components are higher -- JPMorgan by 0.5% and Bank of America by 1.4%. Bank of America is the next big bank to report earnings. While it's scheduled to do so tomorrow, however, we already have a pretty good idea what the results will look like, because B of A effectively told us already.

The broader market is nevertheless defying these positive developments, likely because of today's batch of economic reports. In the first case, the World Bank announced today that it cut its global growth forecast for the remainder of 2013. It now expects global output to expand 2.4%, down from a previous forecast of 3%.

According to the announcement: "Overall, the global economic environment remains fragile and prone to further disappointment, although the balance of risks is now less skewed to the downside than it has been in recent years."

Alternatively, figures released today by the Federal Reserve suggest that domestic manufacturing activity grew by 0.8% in December following a 1.3% gain the preceding month. Taken together, according to Bloomberg News, the two months constitute the strongest back-to-back reading in almost a year.

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