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Previewing the Q2 Earnings Season

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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:

  • Earnings growth is not expected to improve in the Q2 earnings season either, with the growth challenge reflecting a combination of tough comparisons and moderating economic growth.


  • Total Q2 earnings for the S&P 500 index are expected to be down -3.3% from the year-earlier period on +4.0% higher revenues. This would follow the -0.2% earnings decline on +4.5% higher revenues in Q1.


  • With earnings growth in Q1 modestly in negative territory, another earnings decline this earnings season will make it two consecutive quarters of earnings declines for the S&P 500 index. 


  • Estimates for Q2 have come down, but the magnitude of negative revisions remains below the comparable periods of other recent quarters. The -3.3% decline currently expected is down from flat growth in late-March.


  • Q2 earnings growth is expected to be negative for 8 of the 16 Zacks sectors, with Technology, Aerospace, Basic Materials, Construction and Conglomerates as double-digit decliners.


  • The Q2 reporting cycle will (unofficially) get underway with results from the big bank, but the earnings season has actually gotten underway already, with results from 22 S&P 500 members already out. All of these companies have fiscal quarters ending in May, which we count as part of the Q2 tally.


  • For the small-cap S&P 600 index, total Q2 earnings are expected to be -9.0% below the year-earlier level on +3.4% higher revenues. This compares to -18.1% decline in Q1 earnings on +4.5% higher revenues.


  • For full-year 2019, total earnings for the S&P 500 index are expected to be up +0.7% on +2.4% higher revenues, which would follow the +23.3% earnings growth on +9.2% higher revenues in 2018. Double-digit growth is expected to resume in 2020, with earnings expected to be up +10.5% that year.


  • The implied ‘EPS’ for the index, calculated using current 2019 P/E of 18.4X and index close, as of July 9th, is $162.37. Using the same methodology, the index ‘EPS’ works out to $179.52 for 2020 (P/E of 16.6X). The multiples for 2019 and 2020 have been calculated using the index’s total market cap and aggregate bottom-up earnings for each year.


Q2 Earnings Season Expectations

The big banks are on track to (unofficially) kick-off the Q2 earnings season in the coming days, but the reporting cycle reporting cycle has actually gotten underway already.

The recent quarterly releases from Pepsi PEP, FedEx (FDX - Free Report) , Nike NKE and others were for these companies’ fiscal quarters ending in May, which we count as part of our June-quarter tally. The fact is that by the time the big banks come around to report June-quarter results, we will have seen such Q2 results from almost two dozen S&P 500 members already.

Tough comparisons to last year when growth was boosted by the tax cut legislation were all along expected to weigh on earnings growth in 2019. Moderating U.S. economic growth and notable slowdowns in other major global economic regions are having a further negative impact. Uncertainty about the global trade regime and growing resort to tariffs are not helping matters either.

As a result, earnings were essentially flat in the first quarter of 2019 and no significant improvement is expected in the growth trajectory in the June quarter either. In fact, this trend of flat to negative growth is expected to persist through the September quarter, with current consensus estimates looking for positive growth resuming in the last quarter of the year. 

But Q4 is still far from away and a lot can happen between now and then. The chart below of quarterly year-over-year earnings and revenue growth for the S&P 500 index shows estimates for the current and following 3 quarters and actual results for the preceding 4 quarters.



As you can see above, earnings growth was essentially flat in the March quarter (actually down -0.2%) and the expectation is for a -3.3% decline in the June quarter. Earnings growth is expected to be in negative territory in Q3 as well (down -1.6%), with positive growth expected to resume only in last quarter of the year.

Driving this weak growth picture is tough comparisons due to the huge boost to profitability in the year-earlier period. The chart below puts earnings growth expectations for full-year 2019 in the context of where growth has been in recent years and what is expected in the next two years.



The market appears to have accepted the deceleration in growth this year in the hope that growth resumes from next year onwards. It is in the context of these lowered expectations that the modest estimate cuts to Q2 estimates appear reassuring.

The key issue will be if expectations for the second half of the year and beyond hold or come down as we move through the remainder of the year. Analysts have not made any significant downward adjustments to their estimates in response to the ongoing trade dispute, likely in the hope that the issue will eventually get resolved. That said, the trade uncertainty has been a major negative for overall market sentiment.

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