This Week in Earnings
Celebrate the strong earnings results for the third quarter of 2011 while you can, because the outlook for the fourth quarter of the year just got a little more bleak, with preannouncements at a level last recorded In the midst of a recession.
With only 18 companies of the 500 in the S&P 500 index left to report their results for the third quarter of 2011, 70% have beaten estimates – well above the long-term average – and the estimated earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 for the quarter is an impressive 17.7%.
But those bullish results have been matched with a more downbeat outlook for the fourth quarter. So far, 81 S&P 500 companies have warned investors that earnings per share for the fourth quarter will fall short of the levels previously expected or the levels analysts had suggested. Meanwhile, only 23 companies have issued positive preannouncements. That 3.5 ratio of negative to positive preannouncements – meaning that for every upbeat forecast, there were 3.5 companies that revised their estimates downward – is well above the 1.7 negatives for every positive one at this point in time a year ago, as well as the long-term aggregate ratio of 2.3. (This long-term aggregate figure is based on data compiled for S&P 500 companies since 1995.) This is the most bearish showing on record since the second quarter of 2001, in the midst of the 2001 recession, when the ratio was 3.7, when for every company issuing positive guidance, 3.7 companies issued more negative forecasts.