Swings In Stocks Have Overshadowed A Big Earnings Season

By Bryan Rich

February 19, 8:00 pm EST

With the big decline and wild swings in the stock market, earnings season has gotten little attention.

We’ve now heard from 80% of the companies in the S&P 500 on Q4. According to FactSet, 75% of the companies have beat on earnings. And 78% have had positive revenue surprises.

Now, earnings estimates are made to be broken. And they tend to be beaten at a rate of about 70% of the time. But the same cannot be said for revenues. This has been a key missing piece in the economic recovery. Companies have been cutting costs, refinancing and trimming headcount, all in an effort to manufacture margins and profitability. But revenues, the true gauge of business activity and demand, had been dead for the better part of the past decade.

It was just last year that we finally saw some decent revenue growth coming in from the earnings reports. And this most recent quarter, revenue growth is running at the hottest rate since FactSet has been keeping records. That’s a very good sign for the economic outlook.

And corporate earnings are running 15.2% higher than the same period the year prior. That’s the hottest earnings growth we’ve seen since 2011. More importantly, that’s four percentage points higher than analysts were projecting at the end of the year–with knowledge of the tax cut legislation.

With that said, remember, just last Friday, we had a moment during the day when the forward P/E on the S&P 500 hit 16.2. But if the fourth quarter is any indication, those forward earnings (estimates) will likely get ratcheted UP over the coming quarters, but will still undershoot. That will keep downward pressure on the P/E. Stocks are cheap.

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