Market Preview: A Welcome Correction?

Tickers in this article: DIS RAX ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Judging by where U.S. stock futures were languishing early Monday morning, this wasn't looking like a very good day to boost your year-end target for the S&P 500.

But when the dust cleared, Wall Street had answered the weekend's political fireworks in Greece and France with a yawn, and the decision by Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategist Savita Subramanian to boost the firm's expectation for the index to 1450 from 1400 didn't seem quite so ill-timed.

That's not to say Subramanian doesn't see more turbulent days ahead.

"Corrections of 10%+ occur nearly once a year on average, and given the ongoing tail risks surrounding Europe and our more cautious view on growth for the rest of 2012, we think the likelihood of another correction may be elevated," she wrote. "Our expectation that we avoid a recession in the US (even if it requires another round of quantitative easing) suggests fundamental support for the S&P 500 near 1150 (assuming an 800bp basis points equity risk premium vs. our assumed 650bp), roughly where the market bottomed last autumn."

On the plus side, Subramanian offered up four reasons why the eventual sell-off in the broad market should be a bit more restrained in 2012 than what was seen in the past two years.

"We would expect any potential correction to be tempered by the following: (1) sentiment is very low, (2) cash levels are already very high, (3) April had the biggest equity outflows in 16 years and (4) valuation is even more compelling than it was at this time during the prior two years," she said.

While the debate about the wisdom of "Sell in May and go away" remains a hot topic after stocks delivered their poorest weekly performance of 2012 last week, Subramanian's opinion is that investors need to look further out than what may or may not play out over the summer.

"Current levels of sentiment and valuation suggest that investors are likely to earn healthy equity returns in the long term," she wrote. "Long-term investors can take advantage of this by extending their time horizons and using pullbacks and corrections as opportunities to build equity positions rather than decrease them."

Spoken like a true bull. The S&P 500 finished Monday at roughly 1370, so Subramanian's new target is calling for appreciation of 5.8% from current levels, and would represent a price return of more than 15% for 2012.

Meantime, TrimTabs flagged some cause for concern in the data on insider trading during earnings season over the weekend. The research firm said new stock buybacks averaged only $1.2 billion daily over the first four weeks of earnings season, the slowest pace since mid-2010.

"If buybacks do not pick up soon, it would be a particularly negative sign because corporate selling is set to soar," TrimTabs said. "We expect underwriters to suck at least $2 billion daily out of the checking accounts of stock market intermediaries from now through Memorial Day."

The firm noted that Facebook is looking to raise up to $13.6 billion in its IPO on May 18, and that "net insider selling jumped to $2.3 billion on the past 10 days as earnings season blackouts started to lift, and it is likely to rise further as long as the market does not crack."

As for Tuesday's scheduled news, Walt Disney reports its fiscal second-quarter results after the closing bell, and the average estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters is for earnings of 55 cents a share for the Dow component for the March-ended period on revenue of $9.56 billion.

The stock is going into this report with some momentum after The Avengers packed a powerful punch at the box office this past weekend, raking in a record $200.3 million in North America and more than $640 million worldwide. Those receipts will go a long way towards canceling out the company's big whiff on John Carter.

Year-to-date, Disney shares are up nearly 15%, hitting a 52-week high of $44.50 on March 27. The sell side has a bullish lean ahead of the results with 20 of the 32 analysts covering Disney at either strong buy (4) or buy (16) and the median 12-month price target sitting at $48, implying potential upside of 9.5% to Monday's closing price of $43.82.

Deutsche Bank has a buy rating on Disney and recently bumped its price target to $56 from $53, citing "favorable dynamics such as 62% of EBIT earnings before interest and taxes from networks, limited secular growth concerns (focused on non-ad supported kids, live sports), very strong competitive positions, leading global brands, strategically complete, and excellent B/S balance sheet & governance."

For S&P Capital IQ, the success of The Avengers is particularly well-timed.

"With $440M+ of int'l box office in just under 2 weeks, the superhero comic book adaptation seems poised as one of DIS's most profitable franchises, a potential compelling justification on Marvel deal," said the firm, which kept its strong buy opinion on the shares on Monday. "With DIS now poised to exploit "Avengers" in key ancillary and multi-platform channels, we note particularly fortuitous timing for the studio segment, likely on track for Mar-Q $80M-$120M EBIT loss on May 8, on write-down on John Carter."

Check out TheStreet's quote page for Walt Disney for year-to-date share performance, analyst ratings, earnings estimates and much more.

Among the notables reporting early Tuesday are Amedisys , CIBER , Crosstex Energy , Curis Corp. , Directv , E.W. Scripps , Fossil , Hecla Mining , Henry Schein , HSBC Holdings , JA Solar , International Flavors & Fragrances , Molson Coors Brewing , OfficeMax , Patriot Coal , Petrohawk Energy , Pioneer Drilling , Rosetta Stone , Scotts Miracle-Gro , SmartHeat , Superconductor Technologies , Tenet Healthcare , Treehouse Foods , Vitamin Shoppe , and Wendy's International .

The late roster features Blue Nile , CafePress , Chiquita Brands International , Coca-Cola Bottling , Demand Media , DepoMed , Jazz Pharmaceuticals , Jive Software , Openwave Systems , and ZipRealty .

The economic calendar is bare on Tuesday so many economists are still weighing in on Friday's disappointing April jobs report. Credit Suisse isn't ready to say the recovery is officially in trouble. Instead, the firm is arguing that the data was distorted by the warm weather and the Federal Reserve isn't likely to be moved one way or the other just yet on QE3.

"We interpret this the downshift in job creation as consolidation around a mediocre trend for the economy, not the start of a renewed, true loss of momentum," Credit Suisse wrote. "Job growth ran too far, too fast ahead of private-sector demand for a period of time, partly due to the warmest winter in a century, and is now coming back to earth."

As for the Fed, the firm said "we think the jobs figures move the needle a little, but not a lot, with respect to Fed policy. The FOMC stands ready to provide more stimulus if the economy weakens, or if the tone of the April jobs figures does, in the end, turn out to be the new trend. By itself, Friday's (May 4) data are no provocation for a quick ease."

And finally, Rackspace Hosting was the big loser in late trades. Shares of the cloud computing company dropped nearly 12% after the company missed Wall Street's earnings expectations by a penny with a sequential decline in margins seen as the likely culprit.

The stakes were high ahead of this report as Rackspace shares were up more than 35% so far in 2012, hitting a 52-week high of $60.55 on last week. Based on Monday's close at $57.60, the forward price-to-earnings ratio on the shares had climbed to a lofty 49.4X. The company does have some history of volatility on earnings day, having now missed the average analysts' view in four of the past nine quarters.

--Written by Michael Baron in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Michael Baron.

Tickers in this article: DIS RAX ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC