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Q1 Earnings, GDP And More

Stocks are modestly in the red ahead of today’s open, with a big week ahead on the earnings and economic calendars. We have the Fed meeting, Q1 results from more than a third of the S&P 500 members and the first read on Q1 GDP on the docket for this week.
 
On the Fed question, the market has successfully brought the central bank around to its view of monetary policy, with the FOMC stepping back from its December 2015 plan of four rate increases this year to the current two. Market participants don’t see the Fed making any changes on Wednesday, though they are expected to offer some indication of their plans for the June meeting when the next rate increase is expected to come.
 
A number of economic indicators have started showing signs of health lately after staying moribund earlier in the year, which the FOMC will likely refer to in its statement on Wednesday. But the Q1 GDP report coming out on Thursday is expected to pain an unflattering picture of how the U.S. economy did in Q1, with growth barely remaining in positive territory after the sub-par pace in the last quarter of 2015. The Fed will likely be shooting for striking a balance between ‘talking up’ the economic picture while emphasizing its commitment to remain slow and deliberate in its tightening policy.
 
More than the Fed and economic data, the focus this week is on the Q1 earnings season with more than 180 S&P 500 members coming out with quarterly results. Including this morning’s reports from Xerox (XRX), Roper Technologies (ROP) and others, we now have Q1 results from 135 S&P 500 members that combined account for 37.5% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these 135 index members are down -7.8% on -1% lower revenues, with 77% beating EPS estimates and 56.3% coming ahead of top-line estimates.
 
This is weak growth relative to what we have seen from the same group of 135 index members in other recent periods. But the proportion of companies beating EPS and revenue estimates is notably tracking better relative to other recent periods, most likely reflecting the low levels to which estimates had fallen ahead of the start of this reporting cycle.
 
Another seemingly favorable development is the deceleration in negative estimate revisions for the current period (2016 Q2). Estimates for Q2 are coming down, but the pace and magnitude of negative revisions is low relative to the comparable period in the preceding earnings season.
 
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 -9.5% from the same period last year on -1.1% lower revenues, the 4th quarter in a row of earnings declines for the index. Earnings declines are expected to continue in the current period (2016 Q2) as well, with total earnings for the S&P 500 index currently expected to be down -4.9% from the same period last year on -0.8% lower revenues.

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