That doesn’t mean companies are reporting strong earnings across the board. Much of the growth is being driven by a few giant companies. Strip Apple out of the S&P 500, and earnings growth would drop to 3.6 percent, Butters calculates. And banks, which have also turned in strong first-quarter earnings, were helped by one-time items like accounting adjustments.
The past four weeks have been helter-skelter for the market, and indexes have wavered between gains and losses. The three major indexes are up for the week so far but down for the second quarter, which started at the beginning of April.
It’s a contrast to the relative gaiety of the first three months of the year, when the market charged higher as investors shrugged off the previous year’s concerns about Europe and gridlock in Washington over fiscal policy. Now, some of those concerns appear to be resurfacing.
Natalie Trunow, chief investment officer of stocks at Calvert Investments in Bethesda, Md., said investors will probably continue to be cautious until they have more clarity on those and other issues.
“We have an election coming up, we have the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and payroll breaks, we have the budget negotiations coming up soon,” Trunow said. “All of this is going to give markets indigestion.”