The earnings recession may finally be over.
For five straight quarters, the S&P 500 has seen earnings growth in the red and thus is in what’s called an earnings recession.
With Alcoa unofficially kicking off the three-week earnings season on Tuesday, it appears that there may finally be some hope that the dark night of this earnings recession may finally be coming to an end.
Projections are that EPS growth will come up just shy, depending on who you ask. At S&P Global Market Intelligence, the projection is for an earnings decline of 0.96%, according to a note from Lindsey Bell, a senior analyst.
At FactSet, John Butters said that Wall Street analysts predicted at the end of this quarter (which finished on September 30) the earnings decline will come in at 2.1% for the S&P 500. Butters, however noted that earnings estimates have been undershooting reporting earnings for some time.
“Based on the average change in earnings growth due to companies reporting actual earnings above estimated earnings, it is likely the index will not report a decline in earnings for the third quarter,” said the analyst in a note on Friday.
Indeed, as Butters pointed out, earnings were projected at the end of the quarter to drop by 6.2% year-over-year in the second quarter, but only fell by 3.5%. In fact, over the past four years, actual S&P 500 earnings have been an average of 2.9 percentage points above their estimates.
Using Butters projection, this would mean that actual earnings would show 0.8% for the largest US corporations. Based on Bell’s estimate, they would be up roughly 1.9% (though that’s not likely).
In terms of individual sectors, there is a wide variance in expected earnings growth.
The energy sector is still the biggest laggard, though its fortunes are improving. In previous quarters, the energy sector has seen earnings drops of over 100%, but for the third quarter estimates only call for a 68.7% drop according to Bell. The improving oil price, cost reductions, and the simple fact that these companies are now being compared to weak quarters from 2015 is helping the industry.
Bell’s data shows the materials sector as the big winner of the season, with 8.8% projected growth. Overall, most of the 11 sectors Bell tracks are projected to get good news.
“Seven of 11 S&P sectors are expected to post positive earnings growth for Q3, with materials (8.8%), financials (5.7%), utilities (4.4%), and consumer staples (4.2%) leading,” said the note from Bell.
Going forward, it may get even better.
According to Butters, analysts are estimating 2017 full-year earnings to grow 12.9%, a massive spike.
This may be a bit too optimistic, according to Paul Eitelman, head of multi-asset strategies at Russell Investments. Eitelman expects that the S&P 500 will get back into positive earnings territory, but the incredibly high gains may be too much.
“We expect earnings growth, but lacklustre earnings growth,” Eitelman told Business Insider. “Earnings can certainly get to 2% growth as the headwinds of a strong dollar and low oil prices start to fade, but with pressure on margins from increasing labour costs, it’s just hard to believe it will get that high.”
Sure it may not be great, but there’s hope that it’s at least growth and that’s a mighty improvement.
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