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Where Are We with Small-Cap Earnings?

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When we are discussing corporate earnings in the aggregate, we are typically using the S&P 500 index as the handy proxy. This makes sense as this broad-based index gives us a diverse and handy view of what’s going on in terms of corporate profitability.

In other words, we can generally say with a high degree of confidence that if the earnings outlook for the large-cap S&P 500 (SPY - Free Report) index is improving, then the same must be true for the small-cap indexes as well.

We provide plenty of coverage for what’s happening with the large-cap earnings picture, the latest being this week’s Earnings Trends report >>>> An All-Around Improving Earnings Picture

This note takes a look at the Q4 earnings season and the evolving earnings picture for the current and coming quarters for the small-cap S&P 600 (IJR - Free Report) index to see if the aforementioned view makes sense. 

Q4 Earnings Season Scorecard

For the S&P 600 index, we now have Q4 results from 551 companies or 91.7% of the index’s total membership. Total earnings for these companies are up +0.6% from the same period last year on +0.7% higher revenues, with 64.8% beating EPS estimates and 75% beating revenue estimates. The proportion of these 551 S&P 600 members that have beaten both EPS and revenue estimates is 53.5%.

The two sets of comparison charts below put the Q4 performance in a historical context. For reference, we have also provided the corresponding comparisons for the large-cap S&P 500 index.

The earnings and revenue growth for the S&P 600 (SPSM - Free Report) index.

Here is the same comparison for the S&P 500 index (99.2% have reported).

The beats percentages – the proportion of these two indexes beating EPS and revenue estimates.

Beats % for the S&P 600 index.

Beats % for the S&P 500 index.

Looking at Q4 as a whole for the small-cap index, combining the actual results that have come out with estimates for the still-to-come companies, total S&P 600 earnings are expected to be flat from the year-earlier level (0% growth) on +0.3% higher revenues.

The table below shows a summary picture for the small-cap index.

Looking past Q4, the expectation is for an outsized gain in 2021 Q1, with total S&P 600 earnings expected to be up +191.5% on +5.8% higher revenues. Driving the outsized year-over-year gain is easy comparisons, with the year-earlier period experiencing a -68.5% decline as Covid-19 took hold. The chart below of quarterly earnings totals, in billions of dollars, flags the pandemic’s full impact and the extent of comparisons.

Favorable Revisions Trend

As we have been consistently pointing out, the revisions trend has been positive, with estimates for the current and coming quarters steadily going up.

The chart below shows how estimates for 2021 Q1 for the small-cap index have evolved.

Here is the same for the large-cap index.

The Annual Picture

Total S&P 600 earnings are on track to be down -28.8% on -9.3% lower revenues in 2020, with a very strong rebound expected this year and beyond, as the chart below shows.

For the large-cap index, 2021 earnings are expected to be up +28.6% on +9% higher revenues, which would follow the -16.8% decline on -2.9% lower revenues in 2020, as the chart below shows.

We have to keep in mind the variance in sector distribution between the large- and small-cap indexes. For example, the Technology sector accounts for 30.7% of the S&P 500 index’s total market capitalization, while this sector accounts for only 13.7% of the small-cap index’s market capitalization. The Finance sector is a much bigger part of the small-cap index (25.1%) than it is of the large-cap index (13.8%).

There are other smaller differences as well, but these two large sectors give these indexes altogether different flavors.

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