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How Earnings Estimates are Evolving Amid Inflation and Higher Rates

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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:

 

  • The +1.1% earnings growth expected for the S&P 500 index in 2022 Q3 is down from +7.2% at the start of the period. Excluding the Energy sector, Q3 earnings are expected to be down -5.6% at present, a significant decline from +2.1% at the beginning of July.

 

  • Q3 estimates have been cut for 14 of the 16 Zacks sectors since the quarter got underway, with the biggest declines at the Consumer Discretionary, Consumer Staples, Technology, Retail and Conglomerates sectors.

 

  • Looking at the calendar-year picture, total S&P 500 earnings are expected to be up +6.9% in 2022 and +6.3% in 2023. On an ex-Energy basis, total 2022 index earnings would be up +0.3% (instead of +6.9%, with Energy).

 

  • Full year 2023 earnings estimates have been coming down after peaking in mid-April, with the aggregate total down -3.87% from the peak for the index as a whole and -6.36% on an ex-Energy basis.

 

Companies with fiscal quarters ending in August have been coming out with quarterly reports lately, with General Mills (GIS - Free Report) this morning becoming the fourth such S&P 500 member. Oracle (ORCL - Free Report) , Adobe (ADBE - Free Report) and Accenture (ACN - Free Report) are the other three to have reported already.

As we have pointed out here before, the Q3 earnings season will really get going in mid-October when the big banks will come out with their results. But the early reports from Oracle and others for their fiscal periods ending in August also get counted as part of the Q3 earnings season tally.

The preceding earnings season turned out to be better than expected; not great, but not bad either. Given the unprecedented Fed tightening and the resulting macro uncertainties, market participants feared the corporate profitability picture to start deteriorating.

We saw some companies miss estimates and guide lower. But for the most part, the market’s earnings fears didn’t bear out. That said, the strong U.S. dollar has joined the pre-existing headwinds of logistical challenges and inflationary pressures in weighing on corporate profitability. We will have to wait and see whether the Q3 reporting cycle will bring in the long-feared earnings downturn.

Estimates have started coming down, with the overall revisions trend turning negative even after accounting for the persistent favorable revisions trend enjoyed by the Energy sector.

You can see this in the revisions trend to Q3 estimates in the chart below.

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

If we look at the evolution of Q3 earnings growth expectations on an ex-Energy basis, the expected growth rate has dropped from +2.1% on July 6th to -5.6% today.

The chart below shows how the expected aggregate total earnings for full-year 2023 has evolved on an ex-Energy basis.

Zacks Investment Research
Image Source: Zacks Investment Research

As you can see above, aggregate S&P 500 earnings outside of the Energy sector have declined -6.4% since mid-April, with double-digit percentage declines in Retail (down -14.9%), Construction (-15.8%), and Tech (-11.1%). Estimates have been coming down in the Consumer Discretionary, Industrial Products, Medical and Finance sectors as well.

The Overall Earnings Picture

Beyond Q2, the growth picture is expected to modestly improve, as you can see in the chart below that 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

Please note that a big part of this year’s growth is thanks to the strong momentum in the Energy sector whose earnings are on track to grow +137.7% this year. Excluding this extraordinary Energy sector contribution, earnings growth for the rest of the index would be up only +0.3%.

There is a rising degree of uncertainty about the outlook, reflecting a lack of macroeconomic visibility in a backdrop of Fed monetary policy tightening. The evolving earnings revisions trend will reflect these macro trends.


In-Depth Zacks Research for the Tickers Above


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Accenture PLC (ACN) - free report >>

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Oracle Corporation (ORCL) - free report >>

Adobe Inc. (ADBE) - free report >>

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