The S&P 500 gained 12% in 2012 and has almost reached that level of return in 2013 YTD , delayed only by the apparent non-event in Cyprus, led, if one is to believe the talking heads and asset gatherers, not by a Fed-driven liquidity flush but by the mother's milk of stocks - earnings. A major driver of these earnings has been corporations ability to squeeze more blood out of their stones (read - layoff and automate as much as possible) and margin expansion is often cited as the catalyst for the next leg higher in stocks. The trouble with that 'anecdotal' meme, trotted out again and again, is it appears to have hit its unemployment/consumerism-driven limiting point. As JPMorgan notes, in light of the robust cost cutting experienced during the recovery, additional margin expansion remains unlikely going forward, leaving future earnings growth dependent on stronger revenues - recoupling expectations to GDP growth and we know what that means. Critically, in reality, S&P 500 profit margins have dropped rather notably in the last two quarters - now at their lowest since Q1 2010 - not exactly the 'expansion' the advisers told us would happen.
Why is this a (laughable) issue? Because this is what the hockeystick consensus looks like: