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EC Four Takeaways From The Q2 Earnings Season

Earnings reports are front and center this week, with more than 800 companies coming out with quarterly results, including 183 S&P 500 members. With results from 97 S&P 500 members already out, as of Friday, July 21st, we will have crossed the halfway mark by the end of this week. The results thus far provide a positive and reassuring view of corporate earnings, which will most likely get strengthened and reconfirmed through the remainder of this reporting cycle.

Here are some of the positives that we can glean either from the results that have come out already or can reasonably be expected to transpire in the coming days.

First, an abundance of positive surprises. We typically don’t give this factor a lot of weight in evaluating or assessing an earnings season since we all know that management teams are experts in managing expectations. Even then, the trend emerging in the Q2 earnings season is noteworthy for two reasons. First, estimates for the quarter had not fallen by as much as had historically been the case. Second, the proportion of positive revenue surprises, a much harder variable to manipulate relative to earnings, is really off the chart.

The chart below shows the proportion of 97 S&P 500 members that have beaten both EPS and revenue estimates and how that compares to historical periods.

Second, the earnings and revenue growth pace is steadily going up relative to pre-season expectations. Total Q2 earnings for the index are currently expected to be up +8.6% from the same period last year +4.7% higher revenues.

Please note that the +8.6% growth rate is the blended growth rate; it combines the actual growth for the 97 S&P 500 members that have reported with estimates for the still-to-come 403 index members. At the start of the quarter, the expectation was for earnings growth of +7.9%, which came down as the quarter unfolded, reaching as low as +5.6% just ahead of the start of the reporting season. Since plenty of results are still to come, the actual Q2 earnings growth could very well go above +10%, which will follow the +13.3% earnings growth in the preceding quarter.

The Q2 earnings growth may be on track to come below the prior-quarter’s level, but the quarter’s dollar tally of earnings is on track to reach a new all-time quarterly record, surpassing the 2016 Q4 level, as you can see in the chart below. The chart below contrasts the estimated 2017 Q2 total of $290.7 billion with the actual...