Daily Agenda: Better Than Bad is Theme of Quarterly Earnings Season

Earnings continue to beat reduced expectations; Mitsubishi admits faking test results; U.S. durable goods orders fall; South Korea slows.

As markets brace for announcements from central bankers on monetary policy over the next few days, corporate earnings season rumbles along. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported results for the first three months of 2016 that exceeded consensus analyst expectations, as did consumer products giant Procter & Gamble. For now anyway, it appears that large-cap corporate executives have managed expectations skillfully, with small upside surprises outnumbering the shortfalls. Market stalwarts such as Alphabet, the parent of Google, and Netflix did sell off last week after missing estimates or reducing guidance but sustained low volatility in the options markets suggests that investors had braced for the worst already. Apple earnings are due after trading ends in New York today, but the primary focus of market narratives remains the relative health of the global economy as expressed by those who do business rather than investors or policymakers.

Mitsubishi admits false reports. Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors Corp. today announced that published performance reports for fuel economy has been compromised for more than two decades. In a statement, the company admitted to falsifying reports on fuel efficiencies since 1991.

BP profits crater but beat expectations. Today BP reported financial results that included a nearly 80 percent decline in earnings versus the same period in 2015. The London–based energy company beat analyst consensus estimates with profits from refinancing and service divisions.

Durable goods orders fall. A report issued today by the U.S. Commerce Department indicated that demand for durable goods was weaker than anticipated by economists in March. The headline index for purchases of long-term tools rose by 0.8 percent for the month, a contraction of 2.5 percent versus a year earlier.

South Korean growth declines. Bank of Korea data released on today revealed that economic growth in South Korea slowed in the first months of 2016 at an annualized expansion of just 0.4 percent. The shortfall arrives despite stimulus measures taken by the central bank in recent months.

Charter wins approval for Time Warner purchase. Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission have greenlighted the nearly $56 billion offer by Charter Communications to acquire Time Warner Cable. To avoid antitrust concerns, the newly combined entity will not be allowed to charge online content providers for consumer access.