Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid
Photo: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

This morning’s 1.2% decline in the US Dow Jones Industrial Average was led by a 5.2% decline in Exxon Mobil, which disappointed both on earnings and production. Chevron also undershot expectations and fell 2.17%. Apple was down 2.26% after yesterday’s earnings miss.

In the S&P 100, Exxon also was the worst performer, followed closely by Google (-5.23% at 10:00 am). That’s the problem with priced-to-perfection equities trading on upwardly-revised earnings estimates. Wall Street analysts scrambled to boost earnings estimates in December and January, feeding the beginning-of-the-year rally. There just are too many things that can go wrong.

The great tech monopolies have had a fabulous ride, but the only one still smelling like a rose is Amazon (up 4.47% today)–and Amazon investors are paying nearly 100 times estimated forward earnings and 300 times trailing earnings for a toehold on a possible future.

The tech giants face gradual erosion of their monopoly status, reflected in fears about iPhone sales. The oil giants face shortages of equipment and skilled labor as they try to ramp up production after the recovery in oil prices. Daimler Benz (as we reported yesterday) disappointed the market with a warning that higher-than-expected tech investments would suppress earnings growth during 2018, and the DAX followed. At 1 pm yesterday UPS made a similar forecast, and took the US stock market down with it.

After a decade of below-trend investment, a lot of major corporations are finding that profits can’t be pulled out of thin air.