Over the last two weeks, investors were deluged by earnings, economic data, and the Federal Reserve’s latest policy announcement.

In the week ahead, the earnings flow will remain steady but slow down while the week’s economic calendar should be among the year’s quietest.

On Friday, investors cheered the April jobs report, which showed the US labor market growing at a slower pace last month, bringing the prospect of the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates this year back to the fore.

Combine this report with strong earnings late Thursday out of Apple (AAPL), which became the latest Big Tech company to also boost its shareholder return plans, and all three major indexes finished the week in positive territory.

Earnings expected in the week ahead won’t include any members of the “Magnificent Seven” for the first time in three weeks. In their place, consumer and entertainment names will take top billing.

Results from Disney (DIS), expected out Tuesday morning before the bell, should be the week’s most closely watched report, as the media conglomerate is set to deliver its first quarterly earnings since winning its proxy fight with Nelson Peltz last month. Subscriber growth for its streaming services, parks attendance, and Disney’s read on the summer box office will be key themes for investors.

As the parent company of ESPN, any commentary on the sports media landscape — in particular ongoing negotiations for the NBA’s next media rights deal — will also be of note. Results from Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), parent company of cable networks HBO, TBS, and TNT, later this week should pique investor interest along similar lines.

Elsewhere on the earnings side, Uber (UBER) and Lyft (LYFT) will offer updates on the ridesharing business, Reddit (RDDT) will report its first quarterly results since going public, and consumer eating and drinking habits will get a checkup via results from the Cheesecake Factory (CAKE), Papa John’s (PZZA), Celsius (CELH), and Krispy Kreme (DNUT), among others.

The economic calendar features little of note for investors, with Friday’s preliminary look at consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan the only report of note. A handful of Federal Reserve officials are set to speak publicly over the next week, but Fed Chair Jerome Powell is not among them.

No news last week made a bigger impact on markets than Friday’s jobs report.

The US economy added 175,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in April, fewer than expected. The unemployment rate also rose a tenth of a percent and annual wage growth slowed to 3.9%, its lowest level since June 2021.

Job growth slowing after a gangbusters start to 2024 and wage pressures appearing to ease were enough for investors to price in an interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve as soon as September.

“The labor market is still healthy, and the Fed needs to see several months of benign inflation data before lowering rates,” wrote Nancy Vanden Houten, lead US economist at Oxford Economics.

“However, the April jobs report should help Fed officials regain confidence that inflation can get back to 2%.”

In his press conference last week, Fed Chair Jay Powell noted, “The labor market remains relatively tight, but supply and demand conditions have come into better balance.” Friday’s report will affirm the chair in this view.

Still, a softer employment report that takes pressure off the Fed should not be mistaken for a sign the US labor market is rolling over.

Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock, wrote in a note on Friday the US labor market’s consistency has been “remarkable” over the last year, with three-, six-, and 12-month average job gains totaling 242,000, 242,000, and 245,000, respectively.

Rieder added that while he expects the pace of job growth to slow, “some of the highest frequency measures of labor market health, such as separations, initial claims, etc., have moved sideways at low levels since March suggesting few signs of mass layoffs and a relatively healthy labor market.”

If the first quarter of 2024 was defined by investors making peace with the idea rate cuts might be entirely off the table, the first month of the second quarter has been more positive for those investors clamoring for lower rates.

And just like that, first quarter earnings season is just about done.

Through Friday, some 80% of the S&P 500 had reported results, with aggregate annual earnings growth coming in at 5%. At the end of Q1, investors expected earnings had grown 3.4% over the prior year, according to data from FactSet.

And not only has this earnings season been better than expected for investors, but the typical pattern of analysts growing more cautious ahead of next quarter’s earnings season hasn’t held either.

According to FactSet, analysts raised earnings estimates during April by 0.7%. In the first month of any given quarter, analysts have typically cut forecasts by an average of 1.9%.

Companies, of course, are more than happy with analyst habits to lower estimates during the quarter, making the eventual earnings “beat” a more manageable task.

And given both companies and analysts are aware of the dynamics of this dance, that analysts aren’t lowering estimates speaks to the positive fundamental story backing up this year’s market rally.

Take Apple, for instance.

On Friday, the iPhone maker’s stock gained 6%. Its fiscal second quarter results reported Thursday were better than feared. And though the company reported another annual revenue drop, in the current quarter Apple expects revenue to rise by low single digits.

And even more encouragingly for investors, CFO Luca Maestri told Yahoo Finance’s Josh Lipton that sales in mainland China actually rose during the most recent quarter.

With investor community fears of Apple’s position in China at elevated levels, and some alternative data suggesting an ugly picture for the company in Asia, Apple was asked by analysts how it squares these competing readings.

“I can’t address the data points,” CEO Tim Cook told investors. “I [can] only address what our results are … I can’t bridge to numbers we didn’t come up with.”

A pointed, blunt assessment on how Apple views outside efforts to track its business.

And the kind of message you will only hear in an environment where companies are emboldened to lean into discrepancies between their own numbers and outside estimates.

An environment in which it follows, then, that analysts won’t be quite as quick as normal to pare their expectations.

Economic news: Wholesale trade inventories, March final (-0.4% expected, -0.4% previously), Initial jobless claims, May 4 (208,000 previously)

Economic news: University of Michigan consumer sentiment, May preliminary (77 expected, 77.2 previously); University of Michigan 1-year inflation expectations (3.2% previously)

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