Trading on Disappointment

 | Feb 01, 2012 | 3:45 PM EST
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What's the definition of a strong tape? How about Boeing (BA) being up huge while the Pentagon surprises with a big cutback on an important program? How about Navistar (NAV) rallying huge despite preannouncing a shortfall because of a deal with Clean Energy (CLNE) (which I actually announced a week ago)?

And is anyone in?

As my friend Bob Pisani of CNBC pointed out today, "January consolidated volume at the NYSE was 17% below the January 2011 volume and the lowest since July."

July? That's the summer slowdown! January's one of the biggest volume months every year.

I guess the answer to whether anyone is in might be a resounding "No."

Pundits have spent a lot of time talking about how this earnings season has been a bust, a disappointment, because there are far fewer upside surprises than we are used to and far fewer earnings beats.

I wonder if that's really the way we should be judging the market. I have another way: How are earnings disappointments holding up?

Check out Johnson Controls (JCI), Alcoa (AA), Juniper (JNPR) and Eaton (ETN), misses that are either at or above where they were when the stocks reported.

In other words, instead of studying the failed-to-beat-the-street metric, perhaps we should be studying what happens when you blow the quarter.

The answer? Nothing -- or a rally!

And when you really blow them away? Well, how about Seagate (STX), Whirlpool (WHR) or Broadcom (BRCM)? The latter already preannounced better-than-expected numbers, yet still could tack on almost three points.

We know the volume is weak. But the prices? You can sell millions of shares at these prices if you want to.

It just looks like the people who have made it this far aren't bowing out. They are either battle-tested or brain dead. Either way, they're making big money.


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