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MARKET SNAPSHOT: Gasoline 'Tax Cut' In Focus On Energy, Consumer-based Earnings

01/30/2015 | 06:43pm US/Eastern

By Wallace Witkowski, MarketWatch

Exxon Mobil, Disney, Merck report this week

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch)--Investors will get a better idea of how much consumers used their so-called gasoline "tax cut" to fuel discretionary purchases this week as energy and consumer-oriented earnings figure heavily in this week's results.

As oil prices have dropped dramatically since July, the prevailing wisdom is that lower gasoline prices translate into more money for the consumer to spend, and that should provide a boost to consumer-oriented companies. That effect remains to be seen, as the drag from energy appears to be exerting more force than a boost from consumer spending.

This past week, consumer-tech giant Apple Inc. (>> Apple Inc.) reported record earnings driven by iPhone sales, while Chevron Corp. (>> Chevron Corporation) reported a 29% decline in fourth-quarter earnings and suspended its share buybacks. As a whole, stocks finished lower as several earnings reports disappointed and GDP figures came in lower than expected.

Further mixing signals, consumer confidence rose to highs not seen since 2007, but consumer spending in December is expected to decline 0.3% in data to be released Monday.

This week, nearly 100 companies in the S&P 500 index will report quarterly results with three of those Dow components.(>> Merck & Co., Inc.)

On the energy side, fourth-quarter earnings for the sector are expected to decline about 23%, according to John Butters, senior earnings analyst at FactSet. That's slightly worse than the 17% decline estimated at the end of the year. On Monday, Exxon Mobil Corp. (>> Exxon Mobil Corporation)reports earnings.

Over the past month as energy sector projections have dropped, earnings growth estimates for the consumer discretionary sector have grown slightly to 4.9% from 4.4%. This week sees Walt Disney Co. (>> Walt Disney Co), Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (>> Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.), and General Motors Co. (GM.XX)

Health-care companies will also have a big say in earnings, with reports from Merck & Co. (>> Merck & Co., Inc.), Gilead Sciences Inc. (>> Gilead Sciences, Inc.), and McKesson Corp. (>> McKesson Corporation)

Earnings growth for the energy sector is expected to decline about 54% in the first quarter, threatening to pull the S&P 500 into its first year-over-year quarterly earnings decline in eight quarters, according to FactSet's Butters.

Notable earnings reports this week

Report date    Company/Ticker (FactSet EPS / revenue estimates) 
Mon., Feb. 2   Exxon Mobil ($1.34 / $87.43 billion)Anadarko Petroleum Corp.  (86 cents / $3.81 billion)Sysco Corp.  (41 cents / $11.93 billion) 
Tues., Feb. 3  Walt Disney ($1.07 / $12.87 billion)Chipotle ($3.79 / $1.07 billion)Gilead Sciences ($2.23 / $6.72 billion) 
Weds., Feb. 4  Merck (86 cents / $10.48 billion)General Motors (83 cents / $38.88 billion)Keurig Green Mountain Inc.  (89 cents / $1.49 billion)Yum Brands Inc.  (66 cents / $3.93 billion)21st Century Fox Inc.  (41 cents / $7.32 billion)Wynn Resorts Ltd.  ($1.41 / $1.19 billion) 
Thurs., Feb. 5 News Corp  (24 cents / $2.25 billion)Expedia Inc.  ($1.01 / $1.37 billion)GoPro Inc.  (70 cents / $580.3 million)LinkedIn Corp.  (53 cents / $617.5 million)McKesson ($2.61 / $44.81 billion)Philip Morris International Inc.  ($1.06 / $7.1 billion)Twitter Inc.  (6 cents / $454 million) 
Fri., Feb. 6   CBOE Holdings Inc.  (66 cents / $166.8 million)Moody's Corp.  (95 cents / $851.3 million) 

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