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Zacks Earnings Trends Highlights: Caterpillar, CSX and Borg Warner

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – August 8, 2019 – Zacks Director of Research Sheraz Mian says, "Total earnings for the 138 S&P 500 members that have reported Q2 results already are up +2.8% on +3.4% higher revenues, with 79.0% beating EPS estimates and 59.4% beating revenue estimates."

A Stable Earnings Picture

Here are the key points:

  • Total earnings for the 428 S&P 500 members that have reported Q2 results already are up +0.9% on +5.1% higher revenues, with 75.5% beating EPS estimates and 57.0% beating revenue estimates.
  • Q2 results have largely met expectations, with earnings growth on the weak side and positive EPS beats about in-line with historical trends. Revenue growth has been a lot better compared to earnings, but fewer companies are beating top-line estimates.
  • The Q2 earnings season has come to an end for 5 of the 16 Zacks sectors in the S&P 500 index, with the Retail sector as the only one that has more than half of the reports still to come.
  • For the Technology sector, we now have Q2 results from 85.8% of the sector’s market cap in the index. Total earnings for these Tech companies are down -5.7% on +5.6% higher revenues, with 78.7% beating EPS estimates and 63.8% beating revenue estimates.
  • For the Finance sector, we now have Q2 results from 98.8% of the sector’s market cap in the index. Total earnings for these Finance companies are up +4.0% on +8.3% higher revenues, with 77.3% beating EPS estimates and 67.0% beating revenue estimates. The most notable part of the Finance sector results has been the favorable momentum on the revenue front, both in terms of growth as well as surprises.
  • Looking at Q2 as a whole, total S&P 500 earnings are expected to be down -0.3% from the year-earlier period on +4.5% higher revenues. This would follow the -0.1% earnings decline on +4.2% higher revenues in Q1.
  • With a number companies guiding lower, estimates for the current period (2019 Q3) are coming down, with earnings growth for the period currently expected to be a decline of -3.8% on +4.3% higher revenues.
  • For the small-cap S&P 600 index, we now have Q2 results from 455 index members or 75.7% of the index’s total membership. Total earnings for these 455 companies are down -9.0% from the same period last year on +2.0% higher revenues, with 66.2% beating EPS estimates and 57.8% beating revenue estimates.
  • Earnings growth for the small-cap index is even weaker when looked at on an ex-Finance basis. The Finance sector, which accounts for almost one-third of the S&P 600 index total market capitalization, had +15.7% higher earnings in Q2 on +6.6% growth in revenues. Excluding Finance, Q2 earnings growth drops to a decline of -19.2% (-9.0% as a whole). 
  • Looking at the quarter as a whole for the small-cap index, total Q2 earnings are expected to be -11.6% below the year-earlier level on +3.6% higher revenues. Excluding the Finance sector, Q2 earnings growth would be -20.6%.
  • For full-year 2019, total earnings for the S&P 500 index are now in negative territory, down -0.2% on +2.4% higher revenues. This would follow the +23.3% earnings growth on +9.2% higher revenues in 2018. Strong growth is expected to resume in 2020, with earnings expected to be up +10.3% that year.
  • The implied ‘EPS’ for the index, calculated using current 2019 P/E of 17.8X and index close, as of August 6th, is $162.12. Using the same methodology, the index ‘EPS’ works out to $178.83 for 2020 (P/E of 16.1X). 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 Scorecard (as of August 7th, 2019)

We now have Q2 results from 428 S&P 500 members that combined account for 89.6% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these 428 index members are up +0.9% from the same period last year on +5.1% higher revenues, with 75.5% beating EPS estimates and 57.0% beating revenue estimates.

The earnings and revenue growth for these 428 index members is modestly above what we saw from this same sample of companies in the preceding period, but the growth pace is materially below what we had seen in earlier periods.

Positive EPS surprises are about in-line with historical trends, while revenue beats percentages are below historical levels. It is reasonable to interpret these results as suggesting that estimates were likely reasonable ahead of the start of this reporting cycle.

All in all, we didn’t see any major negative surprises this earnings season, which can reasonably be interpreted as a net positive.

That said, a number of major companies blamed the trade uncertainty as a reason for guiding lower. Many others that didn’t guide lower still cited the trade and tariff backdrop as unhelpful to business conditions. Caterpillar CAT, CSX Corp. CSX, Borg Warner BWA are some of the notable players citing the trade issue.

While the revisions trend is undoubtedly negative, the magnitude of decline in Q3 earnings estimates is about in-line with historical trends.

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.

Earnings growth was essentially flat in the March quarter (actually down -0.1%) and the expectation is for a -0.3% decline in the June quarter. Earnings growth is expected to be in negative territory in Q3 as well (down -3.8%), 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 market appears to have accepted the deceleration in growth this year in the hope that growth resumes from next year onwards.

The key issue will be if expectations for next year remain stable or start coming 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. But the recent heightening of tensions and resulting pullback in benchmark treasury yields may force their hands.

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