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Flood Of Q1 Earnings Reports

A flood of Q1 earnings reports, a busy docket of economic reports and the start of the Fed meeting provide the backdrop for today’s trading session. The major indexes are on track for a modestly positive open, but overall mood remains tentative given the Fed meeting.
The only thing that the Fed could potentially do tomorrow is to indicate whether they plan on making a move in the June meeting or not. They are not going to come out and tell us what they plan on doing, but the language that they use to describe the economic picture and downside risks to the outlook will get interpreted that way.
Recent economic data has generally been favorable, though parts of the economy are still struggling, as this morning’s weak March Durable Goods report showed and as Thursday’s Q1 GDP report is expected to show. The odds remain high that the Fed could tip its hand towards a June rate hike, but nothing’s for sure.
The focus in today’s super-busy earnings reporting docket is on Apple (AAPL), which reports after the market’s close. Expectations for the iPhone maker remain low, with the company expected to report -19.4% lower earnings on a -9.9% decline in revenues. The stock has lagged the broader Tech sector year to date, even though some of the other sector bellwethers like Google parent Alphabet’s (GOOGL) earnings report wasn’t that inspiring either.
Apple is suffering from tough comparisons in the core iPhone category, which many people suspect has already reached a saturation point. The company seems to be searching for a new product category that will move on the needle; the Watch category simply hasn’t caught on, and the long-rumored TV product isn’t on the docket yet.
For the Tech sector as a whole, total Q1 earnings are expected to be down -5.7% from the same period last year. Excluding Apple, earnings for the sector would be down only -1.2%. Twitter (TWTR), which has fallen on much harder times compared to Apple, is also on deck to report quarterly results after the close today.
The Apple report will be coming out later today, but we had a flood of earnings releases this morning already. Including all of this morning’s reports from the likes of Procter & Gamble (PG), Eli Lilly (LLY), Coach (COH) and others, we now have Q1 results from 166 S&P 500 members that combined account for 42.6% of the index’s total market capitalization.
Total earnings for these 166 index members are down -7.6% on -1.3% lower revenues, with 75.3% beating EPS estimates and 54.2% coming ahead of top-line estimates. As we have been pointing out since the start of this reporting cycle, the Q1 growth pace has been tracking below other recent earnings seasons, but the proportion of companies beating EPS and revenue estimates is notably tracking better relative to other recent periods.
For Q1 as a whole, combining the actual results that have come out already with estimates for the still-to-come reports, total earnings are on track to be down -9.4% from the same period last year on -1.2% lower revenues. The negative earnings growth in Q1 is the 4th time in a row of quarterly earnings declines for the S&P 500 index, with the 2016 Q2 quarter on track to the 5th period. Estimates for Q2 have been coming down, with total earnings for the period now expected to be down -5.2% from the same period last year on -0.8% lower revenues.
Consumer Confidence figures are expected today at 10:00 AM. The index had increased to 96.2 in March from 94 in February. The Present Situation Index declined to 113.5 and the Expectations Index increased to 84.7.

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