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A perfect economy, but far from a perfect earnings season

In this image, Powell sits and listens while holding his chin.
Powell attends an event at the Federal Reserve on October 4, 2019. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

We're in a Goldilocks economy, if you believe Fed chair Jay Powell. He gave a speech on Tuesday to the National Association for Business Economics in which he reminded the attendees just how special the current economic situation is.

"We don’t get to see the 11th year of an expansion a lot, and there’s a lot to like about it, particularly for people at the lower end of the wage scale who are getting now the highest raises. And it’d be great to continue."
— Jay Powell
Data: U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Chart: Axios Visuals

What he's saying: Powell was upbeat about his interest rate cuts, which he said were designed to give the economy room to "gather steam again." He was also optimistic on inflation, and said he was trying very hard to persuade the markets that he wants to see it higher.

  • Powell barely needed to mention unemployment, which is at a 50-year low. There are now just 1.04 Americans looking for work for every job vacancy in America, according to new data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That's an all-time low and bespeaks a very healthy labor market.

Yes, but: Next week is the official start of earnings season. Major banks will report their 3rd quarter results, including JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs. Look out for United Airlines and J&J too.

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: Expectations are low. Analysts expect S&P companies' third-quarter earnings to come in 4% lower than the same period last year. That would mark the biggest year-over-year drop since 2016, according to FactSet.

  • Companies have been guiding investors' expectations downward in the wake of uncertainty about the trade war, higher tariff-related costs and concerns about the global economy. What's certain is that earnings won't come close to the expectations that the market priced in last year.

Go deeper: The world according to Jerome Powell