For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – August 6, 2020 – Zacks Director of Research Sheraz Mian says, “For 2020 Q3, total S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline -24.3% on -3.8% lower revenues. This is an improvement from -26.5% earnings decline expected at the start of July."
Earnings Estimates Are Going Up
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:
The revisions trend continues to improve, with estimates for the current period (2020 Q3) and beyond steadily going up, a notable shift in the post-pandemic earnings picture.
Total earnings for the 385 S&P 500 members that have reported Q2 results already are down -35.0% on -10.8% lower revenues, with 80.5% beating EPS estimates and 63.6% beating revenue estimates.
This is the lowest earnings growth pace since the last earnings downturn following the 2008 recession, but the proportion of these companies beating consensus estimates, particularly EPS estimates, is tracking above historical trends.
For the Technology sector, we now have Q2 results from 84.6% of the sector’s market capitalization in the index. Total earnings for these Tech companies are down -1.7% on +2.5% higher revenues, with 89.6% beating EPS estimates and 79.2% beating revenue estimates. This is a bigger beats percentage than we saw from the same group in the preceding quarter.
For the Finance sector, we now have Q2 results for 81.9% of the sector’s market capitalization in the S&P 500 index. Total earnings for these banks are down -49.0% on +0.9% higher revenues estimates, as strong gains in trading and investment banking businesses were more than offset by large pandemic-driven loan loss provisions.
Looking at Q2 as a whole, total S&P 500 earnings are expected to be down -34.9% from the same period last year on -9.3% lower revenues, with 13 of the 16 Zacks sectors expected to experience earnings declines and three sectors expected to lose money (declines in excess of -100%).
The three sectors that are expected to lose money in Q2 are Energy (-152.6% earnings decline), Autos (-123.5%), Transportation (-145.7%). Meanwhile, Consumer Discretionary is right on the cusp at (-99.3%).
The three sectors expected to have positive earnings growth in Q2 include Utilities (+5.7% earnings growth), Construction (+4.5%) and Medical (+1.9%).
For 2020 Q3, total S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline -24.3% on -3.8% lower revenues. This is an improvement from -26.5% earnings decline expected at the start of July.
For full-year 2020, total earnings for the S&P 500 index are currently expected to be down -21.9% on -4.9% lower revenues. This is down from close to +8% growth expected at the start of the year, but better than the -24.1% decline two weeks ago. For reference, S&P 500 earnings declined -19.1% in 2008 and -3.4% in 2009, though that was admittedly a different type of downturn.
Growth is expected to resume next year, thanks to easy comparisons, but the dollar level of earnings in 2021 will still be below the 2019 level.
The implied ‘EPS’ for the index, calculated using current 2020 P/E of 26.4X and index close, as of August 4th, is $125.46, down from $160.68 in 2019. Using the same methodology, the index ‘EPS’ works out to $157.52 for 2021 (P/E of 21X), below the 2019 level ($160.68). The multiples for 2020 and 2021 have been calculated using the index’s total market cap and aggregate bottom-up earnings for each year.
Please note that while full-year 2021 earnings for the S&P 500 index are currently expected to be up +25.6% from the 2020 level, the absolute dollar amount of 2021 earnings estimates remain below the 2019 level.
For the small-cap S&P 600 index, we have Q2 earnings from 372 index members. Total earnings for these small-cap companies are down -61.4% from the same period last year on -16.8% lower revenues, with 81.5% beating EPS estimates and 65.9% beating revenue estimates.
The proportion of S&P 600 members beating Q2 EPS and revenue estimates is significantly above historical levels, suggesting that estimates for the small-cap companies were even lower than their large-cap peers.
The growth picture emerging from the ongoing Q2 earnings season is very weak, with S&P 500 earnings on track to decline the most since the last earnings downturn following the 2008 recession. Also, most companies are still unable to provide guidance on account of the pandemic-driven uncertainty. But it isn’t all doom and gloom, with clear signs of improvement starting to emerge. Importantly, quite a few companies had reassuring things to say about trends in underlying businesses despite the macro uncertainty.
You can see these green shoots in EPS estimates for companies like Texas Instruments Incorporated TXN, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. AMD, Whirlpool Corporation WHR, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation CTSH and others. These favorable estimate revisions have started showing up in the aggregate picture as well, with aggregate earnings estimates for the S&P 500 index moving up lately.
The recent flow of economic readings has broadly been positive, suggesting that the hoped-for recovery is firmly in place. But the worry is that the ongoing rebound in infections will moderate the recovery’s momentum.
We will see if these expectations pan out.
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