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What Will Q3 Earnings Season Show?

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Note: The following is an excerpt from this week’s Earnings Trends report. You can access the full report that contains detailed historical actual and estimates for the current and following periods, please click here>>>

Here are the key points:

 

  • We know that the earnings picture remains strong, even though the growth pace is expected to decelerate significantly in Q3 and beyond. What we don’t know at this stage is whether the incremental change in the earnings outlook over the coming days, as reflected in earnings estimate revisions, will be positive or negative.

 

  • Estimates for 2021 Q3, whose early reports have started coming out, have not moved up as much as had been the case in the comparable periods in the last few quarters. That said, the revisions trend remains positive and could very well gain steam as the reporting cycle gets underway.

 

  • Total Q3 earnings for the S&P 500 index are expected to be up +26.0% from the same period last year on +13.7% higher revenues. This would follow the +94.9% earnings growth on +25.2% higher revenues in Q2.

 

  • While Q3 earnings growth is undoubtedly on track to decelerate from the first-half’s breakneck speed, largely a reflection of base effects, other positive features of the earnings picture from the first half, namely broad-based revenue momentum and a favorable revision trend, are expected to remain in place.

 

  • Rising cost pressures amid supply-chain disruptions and labor/material shortages will keep the spotlight on margins, which are expected to be up year-over-year as well as sequentially in Q3. The margins trajectory over the coming periods is a key source of uncertainty in the earnings outlook given the lack of visibility with respect to the duration of inflationary pressures. 

 

  • Looking at the calendar-year picture for the S&P 500 index, earnings are projected to climb +42.6% on +13.4% higher revenues in 2021 and increase +9.5% on +6.6% higher revenues in 2022. This would follow the -13.0% earnings decline on -1.7% lower revenues in 2020.

 

  • For the small-cap S&P 600 index, total Q3 earnings are expected to be up +43.1% on +15.8% higher revenues, which would follow the +268.3% earnings growth on +30.6% higher revenues in 2021 Q2.

 

  • The implied ‘EPS’ for the S&P 500 index, calculated using the current 2021 P/E of 22.5X and index close, as of September 21st, is $193.71, up from $135.88 in 2020. Using the same methodology, the index ‘EPS’ works out to $212.13 for 2022 (P/E of 20.5X) and $233.32 in 2023 (P/E of 18.7X). The multiples have been calculated using the index’s total market cap and aggregate bottom-up earnings for each year.

The Q3 earnings season will really get underway when JPMorgan (JPM - Free Report) and the other major banks come out with their quarterly results on October 13th. That’s when everyone starts paying attention to the earnings season. But the reporting cycle actually got underway last week with Oracle (ORCL - Free Report) and we now have results from 6 S&P 500 members including FedEx (FDX - Free Report) , Adobe (ADBE - Free Report) , Lennar (LEN - Free Report) , and others. Others such as Nike (NKE - Free Report) are on deck to report quarterly results in the coming days for their respective fiscal quarters ending in August.

All such August-period results will get included with the September-quarter reports as part of the Q3 reporting cycle. We will have seen roughly two dozen such August period results by the time JPMorgan comes out with its quarterly results.

Total Q3 earnings for the S&P 500 index are expected to be up +26.0% from the same period last year on +13.7% higher revenues. This would follow the +94.9% earnings growth on +25.2% higher revenues in Q2.

The chart below shows how Q3 estimates have evolved since the start of the year.

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

Please note that while the Q3 estimate revisions trend remains positive, it is not as strong as we had seen in the comparable periods of the preceding two quarters. It might be nothing more than a reflection of analysts’ tentativeness about the impact of the ongoing Delta variant, but it is nevertheless something we will be closely monitoring in the days ahead. 

The chart below provides a big-picture view of earnings on a quarterly basis.

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

The chart below shows the overall earnings picture on an annual basis, with the growth momentum expected to continue.

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

We remain positive in our earnings outlook, as we see the overall growth picture steadily improving, with the revisions trend accelerating in the days ahead.