From Zacks: The growth picture emerging from the Q3 earnings season continues to improve as we move into the second half of the reporting cycle. Earnings growth for the quarter is on track to be in positive territory, the first positive growth for the S&P 500 index after 5 quarters of back-to-back declines.
The +2% earnings growth in Q3 (combining the actual results from the 291 index members that have reported already with estimates for the still-to-come 209 companies) may not seem like much, but it is nevertheless a notable improvement over what we saw in the preceding 5 quarters, as the chart below shows.
As you can see in this chart, positive growth was expected to show up in the last quarter of the year, with pre-season expectations putting Q3 growth to be modestly in negative territory. In other words, not only has the earnings recession finally come to an end, but positive growth has arrived ahead of schedule.
The growth angle isn’t the only favorable aspect of this earnings season. Positive surprises, particularly on the revenue side, are more numerous relative to other recent periods and estimates for the current period (2016 Q4) are holding up fairly well. We maintain the thought that the continuation of these trends through the remainder of this earnings season will add to confidence in expectations for the coming quarters when the growth picture is expected to ramp up in a material way.
Q3 Earnings Scorecard (as of 10/28/2016)
We now have Q3 results from 291 S&P 500 members or 58.2% of the index’s total membership that combined account for 68.5% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these 291 companies are up +2.2% from the same period last year on +1.3% higher revenues, with 73.5% beating EPS estimates and 57.4% coming ahead of revenue estimates.
The table below shows the scorecard of these 291 index members. The reporting cycle really ramps up this week, with more than 1000 companies reporting results, including 130 S&P 500 members. By the end of this week, we will have seen Q3 results from 84.2% of the index’s total membership.
This is better performance than we have seen from the same group of 291 index members in other recent periods, as the comparison charts below show.
The Energy sector’s growth picture is expected to improve in Q3, but it remains a big drag this earnings season. With the Exxon (XOM – Analyst Report) and Chevron (CVX – Analyst Report) earnings reports now behind us, we now have Q3 results from 73.1% of the sector’s total market cap in the S&P 500 index. Total earnings for these Energy companies are down -58.8% from the same period last year on -15.1% lower revenues, with 77.8% beating EPS estimates and 38.9% beating revenue estimates.
The Energy sector’s results have come in better than expected, which has helped the aggregate growth picture for the index on the margin, but they nevertheless drag down the overall growth pace. Excluding the Energy sector, total earnings for the rest index members that have reported are up +6% on +3.7% higher revenues.
The comparison charts below show the aggregated reported picture with and without the Energy sector.
In the comparison chart below, we are comparing the proportion of S&P 500 members that are beating both EPS and revenue estimates in Q3 with historical periods. As you can see, Q3 is tracking above other recent periods largely on account of more numerous revenue beats.
Is the Improvement All Finance Driven?
For the Finance sector, we now have Q3 results from +75.1% of the sector’s total market cap in the index. Total earnings for these companies are up +9.3% from the same period last year on +5.9% higher revenues, with 74.6% beating EPS and an equally high 73.2% beating revenue expectations.
This is better performance than we have seen from these Finance sector companies in a while, as the below comparison charts show.
Excluding the Finance sector from the aggregate reported picture at this stage, total earnings for the rest of S&P 500 members that have reported results will be up +0.1% on +0.6% higher revenues, with 73.2% beating EPS estimates and 52.3% beating revenue estimates.
The comparison charts below show the aggregate reported growth picture, with and without the Finance sector.
What the above chart shows is that the growth picture becomes less notable without the Finance sector, but it is still an improvement over the recent past.
Technology Sector’s Apple Drag
For the Technology sector, we now have Q3 results from 52.5% of the Tech companies in the S&P 500 index that combined account for 72.2% of the sector’s total market cap in the index. Total earnings for these Tech companies are up +1.6% from the same period last year on +1.5% higher revenues, with 87.5% beating EPS estimates and 75% beating revenue expectations.
As mediocre as the sector’s Q3 growth pace looks, it is nevertheless an improvement over what we have seen from the same group of Tech stocks over the past year, as the left-hand-side chart below shows. Positive surprises are also more numerous relative to historical periods (right-hand chart).
A big reason for the Tech sector’s mediocre growth pace is the drag from Apple, whose Q3 earnings were down -19% from the same period last year on -9% lower revenues. Excluding Apple, total earnings for the rest of the Tech sector companies that have reported would be up +8.8% from the same period last year on +4.5% higher revenues.
The comparison charts below show the sector’s growth pace with and without the Apple drag. As you can see, the sector’s growth picture looks a lot better on an ex-Apple basis.
Q3 Expectations As a Whole
Combining the actual results from the 291 S&P 500 members with estimates from the still-to-come 209 index members, total Q3 earnings are now expected to be up +2.0% from the same period last year on +1.4% higher revenues. This would compare to 2016 Q2 earnings growth of -2.8% on flat revenues.
The table below shows the summary picture for Q3 earnings, revenues and margins contrasted with the corresponding results from from the previous quarter.
Expectations Beyond Q3
The chart below shows current bottom-up consensus earnings expectations for the index in 2016 Q3 and the following four quarters contrasted with actual results in the preceding four quarters. Please note that the columns represent bottom-up earnings totals for each quarter in billions of dollars while the line represents the quarterly growth rates.
At the start of the Q3 earnings season, growth was expected to be in negative territory for the 6th quarter in a row, with positive growth expected to resume from Q4 (+4.7%) onwards. But as indicated at the top, growth in Q3 has turned positive already (up +2.0% at present).
The Energy sector drag is expected to end in 2016 Q4 and beyond, as the chart below of the sector’s earnings shows.
The improved Energy sector outlook makes sense, given shifting comparisons and the recent momentum in oil prices. But we will have to wait to find out if estimates for the other sectors will hold up as companies report Q3 results and provide guidance for Q4 and beyond.
It will be interesting to see if the decelerated pace of negative revisions that we saw the last earnings season will get repeated this time as well.
This article is brought to you courtesy of Zacks Research.