Stock market returns for 2019 ended the decade with a bang! The S&P 500 Index rose +28.9% last year and had a total return (with reinvested dividends) of +31.5% i . Is it ironic (or perhaps just confounding) that returns were strong last year despite earnings being down v. the prior year? Further, how do you explain that stocks were down -4% in 2018 when earnings that year were up +23%? The answer to both questions is that the market is forward-looking. Stocks fell in 2018, because the earnings picture for 2019 was pretty dismal on a year-over-year basis, especially with the uncertainty of the effects of a continued trade war. Then, 2019 returns were strong as the earnings picture was expected to improve into 2020, and the trade war is expected to slow but not stall earnings growth. Speaking of which, perhaps an earnings picture will help…