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Analysts were convinced that the last quarter of 2018 was going to be great for earnings — until, suddenly, at the end of the year, they weren't.

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The bottom line: The stock market's volatility at the end of 2018 was to a certain degree based in genuinely unexpected fourth-quarter weakness. And 2019 is getting off to a very rocky start. With expected earnings still at or near all-time highs, there's definitely a lot of room for them to be re-rated downwards.

  • JPMorgan is a good example. It had a record year in 2018, earning $32.5 billion in total. That shattered the previous record by some $8 billion. And yet its quarterly fixed-income trading revenue was its worst since the financial crisis.
  • Apple's earnings warning at the beginning of January was particularly noteworthy, and wiped some $2.5 billion off expectations for its quarterly earnings.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.