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It has been the accepted wisdom for a while that it is only a question of time before Amazon mops up the traditional brick-and-mortar retailer’s every last sales dollar. I am obviously exaggerating here, but we have been seeing the ‘Amazon effect’ in a host of retail sub-industries in recent years.

Many have been thinking that what happened to Barnes & Noble and other booksellers is the fate of most traditional retailers; we certainly have seen the once-mighty operators like Macy’s (M - Free Report) in the department store space and Wal-Mart (WMT - Free Report) in the big-box discounter industry humbled in recent years. You can see this in the stock market performance of these players – Amazon shares are up +37.7% in the past year while Macy’s is down -26.7% in that same time period.

Wal-Mart shares have done better – they are up +13% over the past year – largely because market participants have come around lately to see its digital strategy as credible. The retail giant has not only been steadily making investments in its online operations, but also strengthening its legacy through investments in employees and cleaner and more organized floor space. This has started showing up in Wal-Mart’s earnings results, as we saw in the company’s strong Q1 earnings report. But it’s safe to say that Wal-Mart still has a long way to go before it can effectively fend off the Amazon challenge.

One could argue that what has started working for Wal-Mart should work for Macy’s as well. But their brick-and-mortar commonality aside, they are fundamentally different businesses. Wal-Mart may bring in foot traffic through its enormous groceries business, but there is increasingly less reason for consumers to visit Macy’s, other department stores or even the malls. We are seeing this issue with a host of other mall-based retailers as well, which is giving rise to the ‘death of the mall’ narrative. We should be mindful, however, that as weak as the mall-based retail space has been lately, some of these mall-based players have been able to make it work.

Strong results from The Children’s Place (PLCE - Free Report) and Gap (GPS - Free Report) prove this point. But for every Children’s Place winner, you have a host of mall-based Foot Locker (FL - Free Report) losers that are forced to blame everything – from delayed tax refunds and Easter Day placements to the weather – but their inability to respond to changing consumer behavior. On a related note, the Foot Locker disappointment may have read-throughs for Nike (NKE - Free Report) and Under Armour (UAA - Free Report) as well.  

Retail Sector Scorecard

As of Friday, May 19th, we now have Q1 results from 33 of the 42 retailers in the S&P 500 index. Total earnings for these 33 retailers are up +1.5% from the same period last year on +2.9% higher revenues, with 63.6% beating EPS estimates and 54.5% beating revenue estimates.

Please note that we have a stand-alone Retail sector, unlike the official Standard & Poor’s placement of this space in the Consumer Discretionary sector. The Zacks Retail sector includes, besides the traditional department stores and other brick-and-mortar retailers, the online vendors like Amazon and restaurant operators.

The side-by-side charts below compare the sector’s results thus far with what we have seen from the same group of 33 retailers in other recent periods.

The aggregate results from the 33 retailers that have reported Q1 results already are tracking below what we had seen from the same companies in other recent periods. This is despite the +41.1% growth in Amazon’s earnings on +22.6% higher revenues. On an ex-Amazon basis, the sector’s Q1 earnings growth would be flat, as the right-hand chart below shows.

A few standout results notwithstanding, the sector’s Q1 results have been notably weak in an otherwise strong earnings season. Please note that the proportion of Retail sector companies beating EPS estimates (63.6%) is the third lowest in the entire S&P 500 index, while the proportion of revenue surprises (54.5%) is the fourth lowest of all 16 Zacks sectors.  

Q1 Earnings Scorecard

As of Friday, May 19th, we have Q1 results from 472 S&P 500 members that combined account for 96.9% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these companies are up +13.7% from the same period last year on +7.2% higher revenues, with 72.5% beating EPS estimates and 65.7% beating revenue estimates. The proportion of companies beating both EPS and revenue estimates is 51.7%.

The table provides the current earnings season scorecard, as of May 19th, 2017.

Comparing Q1 Results

The chart below provides a comparison of the growth performance thus far with what we have seen from this same group of 472 S&P 500 members in other recent periods.

As you can see, the Q1 growth pace is notably tracking above what we had seen from the same group of 472 index members in other recent periods. Importantly, the growth performance is broad-based and not narrowly concentrated. We got the leadership from the Finance space earlier in the reporting cycle, but the baton has since shifted to Tech and host of other areas, including Industrials, Basic Materials, and Energy.

Positive Revenue Surprises

The chart below compares the proportion of positive EPS and revenue surprises in Q1 thus far with what we had seen from the same group of 472 index members in other recent periods.

The proportion of Q1 companies beating EPS estimates is tracking above historical periods, with positive revenue surprises particularly coming out ahead of what we are used to seeing in the recent past. You can see the same in the chart below that compares the proportion of Q1 companies beating both EPS and revenue estimates with other recent periods.

Expectations for Q1 As a Whole

Looking at Q1 as whole, combining the actual results from the 472 S&P 500 members that have come out with estimates for the still-to-come 28 index members, total earnings are expected to be up +13.1% from the same period last year on +6.2% higher revenues. This would follow +7.3% earnings growth in 2016 Q4 on +4.7%.

The table below shows the summary picture for Q1, contrasted with what was actually achieved in Q4.

Please note that the Q1 earnings season follows the strong showing on the earnings front in the preceding reporting cycle. Not only did 2016 Q4 growth reach the highest in two years, but total earnings for the quarter also reached a new quarterly record. The strong Q4 performance came after the first positive earnings growth in 2016 Q3, having declined in each of the preceding 5 quarters. The strong Q1 showing represents a notable acceleration in the growth momentum.

The chart below shows the Q1 earnings growth contrasted with what is expected in the following three quarters and actual results in the preceding 5 quarters. As you can see in the chart below, this growth pace is expected to continue through the rest of the year.

Estimates for the current period (2017 Q2) have come down since the start of the quarter, but the magnitude of negative Q2 revisions still compares favorably with the comparable periods over the last two years.

In other words, Q2 estimates are falling, but they aren’t falling by as much as would typically be expected.

Note: Sheraz Mian manages the Zacks equity research department. He is an acknowledged earnings expert whose commentaries and analyses appear on Zacks.com and in the print and electronic media. His weekly earnings related articles include Earnings Trends and Earnings Preview. He manages the Zacks Top 10 and Focus List portfolios and writes the Weekly Market Analysis article for Zacks Premium subscribers.

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Here is a list of the 111 companies including 18 S&P 500 members reporting this week.

Company Ticker Current Qtr Year-Ago Qtr Last EPS Surprise % Report Day Time
BOOZ ALLEN HMLTBAH0.430.41-5.00%MondayBTO
FERROGLOBE PLCGSM-0.09-0.0447.06%MondayBTO
NAVIOS MARIT LPNMM-0.040600.00%MondayBTO
CHEETAH MBL-ADRCMCMN/A0.01-66.67%MondayBTO
CHINA ONLINE EDCOE-0.01N/A61.02%MondayBTO
DIANA CONTAINERDCIX-0.85-0.6414.29%MondayBTO
YIRENDAI LTDYRD0.610.343133.33%MondayBTO
AGILENT TECHA0.480.448.16%MondayAMC
NORDSON CORPNDSN1.31.194.88%MondayAMC
AMERICAS CAR-MTCRMT0.640.4-49.28%MondayAMC
QUOTIENT LTDQTNT-0.76-0.41-89.29%MondayAMC
LUXOFT HOLDINGLXFT0.510.466.35%MondayAMC
TARENA INTL-ADRTEDUN/A-0.01N/AMondayAMC
NETSOL TECH INCNTWK-0.010.08-400.00%MondayN/A
AUTOZONE INCAZO1210.77-1.46%TuesdayBTO
TOLL BROTHERSTOL0.620.5120.00%TuesdayBTO
DSW INC CL-ADSW0.330.425.00%TuesdayBTO
DIANA SHIPPINGDSX-0.37-0.415.00%TuesdayBTO
CRACKER BARRELCBRL1.841.822.34%TuesdayBTO
EVINE LIVE INCEVLV-0.05-0.03-25.00%TuesdayBTO
MOMO INC -ADRMOMO0.280.0332.26%TuesdayBTO
YINTECH INVSTMTYINN/A0.44N/ATuesdayBTO
KIRKLANDS INCKIRK-0.040.0612.50%TuesdayBTO
GAZIT GLOBE LTDGZTN/A-0.11N/ATuesdayBTO
INTUIT INCINTU3.653.2716.67%TuesdayAMC
TAKE-TWO INTERTTWO0.470.41195.83%TuesdayAMC
BANCOLOMBIA-ADRCIB0.860.542.33%TuesdayAMC
HEICO CORPHEI0.50.460.00%TuesdayAMC
AEGEAN MARINEANW0.360.245.13%TuesdayAMC
CONTAINER STORETCS0.090.2-15.38%TuesdayAMC
BRISTOW GROUPBRS-0.480.1338.30%TuesdayAMC
OOMA INCOOMA-0.18-0.225.88%TuesdayAMC
VIASAT INCVSAT0.010.12100.00%TuesdayAMC
ASCENDIS PHARMAASND-0.64-0.99.84%TuesdayAMC
TILLYS INCTLYS-0.1-0.064.76%TuesdayAMC
LOWES COSLOW1.070.878.86%WednesdayBTO
TIFFANY & COTIF0.70.645.84%WednesdayBTO
ADVANCE AUTO PTAAP2.132.51-8.26%WednesdayBTO
DYCOM INDSDY1.21.0818.84%WednesdayBTO
GOLDEN OCEAN GPGOGL-0.14-0.65146.15%WednesdayBTO
KLX INCKLXI0.30.3762.96%WednesdayBTO
SEADRILL LTDSDRL-0.050.2684.62%WednesdayBTO
HOEGH LNG PTNRSHMLP0.410.29-19.35%WednesdayBTO
THERMON GROUPTHR0.140.20.00%WednesdayBTO
NAVIOS MARI HLDNM-0.28-0.11-16.67%WednesdayBTO
JA SOLAR HOLDGSJASO-0.020.361500.00%WednesdayBTO
SEADRILL PTNRSSDLP0.320.4838.00%WednesdayBTO
WESTELL TECH-AWSTL0-0.05100.00%WednesdayBTO
CHICOS FAS INCCHS0.290.25150.00%WednesdayBTO
EATON VANCEEV0.590.48-8.62%WednesdayBTO
TRIUMPH GRP INCTGI1.61.32-18.55%WednesdayBTO
CSRA INCCSRA0.460.56.67%WednesdayAMC
NETAPP INCNTAP0.680.3622.03%WednesdayAMC
PVH CORPPVH1.61.50.82%WednesdayAMC
HP INCHPQ0.390.412.70%WednesdayAMC
COPART INCCPRT0.360.320.00%WednesdayAMC
STAR BULK CARRSSBLK-0.22-0.88-50.00%WednesdayAMC
EPLUS INCPLUS0.790.7317.18%WednesdayAMC
WILLIAMS-SONOMAWSM0.480.533.33%WednesdayAMC
PURE STORAGEPSTG-0.38-0.3412.50%WednesdayAMC
SPARTAN NASH COSPTN0.530.548.16%WednesdayAMC
EXA CORPEXA-0.23-0.05160.00%WednesdayAMC
FORTUNA SILVERFSM0.10.02-25.00%WednesdayAMC
GUESS INCGES-0.31-0.23-2.38%WednesdayAMC
MODINE MANUFACTMOD0.340.36-12.50%WednesdayAMC
SHOE CARNIVALSCVL0.530.5675.00%WednesdayAMC
VEDANTA RES PLCVDNRFN/AN/AN/AWednesdayN/A
BANK MONTREALBMO1.411.3123.02%WednesdayN/A
BEST BUYBBY0.40.4417.47%ThursdayBTO
MEDTRONICMDT1.311.270.90%ThursdayBTO
DOLLAR TREE INCDLTR0.990.894.51%ThursdayBTO
HORMEL FOODS CPHRL0.40.4-4.35%ThursdayBTO
PATTERSON COSPDCO0.640.771.75%ThursdayBTO
SIGNET JEWELERSSIG1.671.950.75%ThursdayBTO
BURLINGTON STRSBURL0.70.574.71%ThursdayBTO
BRADY CORP CL ABRC0.430.4217.65%ThursdayBTO
BIOLINE RX LTDBLRX-0.05-0.1-62.50%ThursdayBTO
ABERCROMBIEANF-0.72-0.59-6.58%ThursdayBTO
GENESCO INCGCO0.340.6220.11%ThursdayBTO
INTL GAME NEWIGT0.470.5787.23%ThursdayBTO
TITAN MACHINERYTITN-0.13-0.21-63.16%ThursdayBTO
CDN IMPL BKCM1.891.811.88%ThursdayBTO
MIX TELEMATICSMIXT0.040.0671.43%ThursdayBTO
SANDERSON FARMSSAFM2.752.11-12.07%ThursdayBTO
TORO COTTC1.030.9410.81%ThursdayBTO
CHRISTOPHER&BNKCBK-0.120-2.22%ThursdayBTO
NOMAD FOODS LTDNOMD0.260.31N/AThursdayBTO
NGL ENERGY PARTNGL0.090.75-117.50%ThursdayBTO
ROYAL BANK CDARY1.321.215.26%ThursdayBTO
HANWHA Q CELLSHQCL-0.130.33-720.00%ThursdayBTO
MOVADO GRP INCMOV0.130.190.00%ThursdayBTO
ADV DRAINAG SYSWMS-0.08-0.130.00%ThursdayBTO
ULTA BEAUTY INCULTA1.791.455.16%ThursdayAMC
COSTCO WHOLE CPCOST1.311.24-13.33%ThursdayAMC
DECKERS OUTDOORDECK-0.060.11-3.07%ThursdayAMC
MARVELL TECH GPMRVL0.16-0.0438.46%ThursdayAMC
ZOES KITCHENZOES0.010.06-16.67%ThursdayAMC
SPLUNK INCSPLK-0.75-0.7226.32%ThursdayAMC
CALERES INCCAL0.390.41-17.50%ThursdayAMC
VEEVA SYSTEMS-AVEEV0.120.1136.36%ThursdayAMC
QAD INC-AQADA-0.13-0.140.00%ThursdayAMC
BROCADE COMM SYBRCD0.010.18-65.00%ThursdayAMC
GRIDSUM HOLDINGGSUM-0.18N/A-288.89%ThursdayAMC
NUTANIX INC-ANTNX-0.86N/A23.19%ThursdayAMC
21VIANET GP-ADRVNET-0.1-0.19-16.67%ThursdayAMC
8X8 INCEGHT-0.03-0.030.00%ThursdayAMC
GAMESTOP CORPGME0.490.663.93%ThursdayAMC
LIONS GATE ETMTLGF.A0.330.2610.00%ThursdayAMC
TORONTO DOM BNKTD0.920.94.17%ThursdayN/A
BIG LOTS INCBIG10.821.35%FridayBTO
DRAGONWAVE INCDRWI-0.62-2.98-111.76%FridayAMC


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