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Investors brace for stocks to fall again ahead of earnings

Investors brace for stocks to fall again ahead of earnings

By David Randall for Reuters

The global market volatility of the past month that sent U.S. stocks to their worst quarter in four years shows no signs of letting up just because the calendar turned to October.

Investors say they are bracing for another leg down in the S&P 500 stock index despite its positive showing last week by increasing cash and other defensive positions in their portfolios.

"Do I think we go into a bear market? No. Can we inch toward it? Absolutely," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

With the backdrop of slowing jobs growth in the U.S. and the collapse of global commodity prices, third quarter corporate results will take on a heightened significance when companies begin reporting them next week, analysts said. Alcoa Inc, traditionally the first company to report its results, is scheduled to announce its third quarter earnings after the market closes on Oct. 8.

Overall, corporate earnings are expected to fall by 4.1 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data. That figure is skewed, however, by an expected 65 percent fall in energy sector results.

"The single most determinant variable is going to be earnings at this point," said Mark Freeman, chief investment officer at Dallas-based Westwood Holdings Group. He has been raising his cash levels, and at the same moving more of his portfolio into healthcare and technology companies that show signs of growth.

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