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Record-High Cuts to S&P 500 EPS Estimates for CY 2020 To Date

Earnings

By John Butters  |  June 1, 2020

During the first five months of CY 2020, analysts lowered earnings estimates for companies in the S&P 500 for the year. The CY 2020 bottom-up EPS estimate (which is an aggregation of the median 2020 EPS estimates for all the companies in the index) declined by 28.0% (to $128.03 from $177.82) during this period. How significant is a 28.0% decrease in the bottom-up EPS estimate during the first five months of a year? How does this decrease compare to recent years?

During the past five years, the average decline in the (annual) bottom-up EPS estimate during the first five months of a year has been 1.3%. During the past 10 years, the average decline in the (annual) bottom-up EPS estimate during the first five months of a year has been 0.1%. During the past 15 years, the average decline in the (annual) bottom-up EPS estimate during the first five months of a year has been 2.4%. During the past 20 years, the average decline in the (annual) bottom-up EPS estimate during the first five months of a year has also been 2.4%. Thus, the decline in the bottom-up EPS estimate recorded during the first five months of CY 2020 was much larger than the five-year average, the 10-year average, the 15-year average, and the 20-year average.

Change in S&P 500 Annual EPS First 5 mos of year

In fact, this marked the largest decrease in the annual EPS estimate for the index over the first five months of the year since FactSet began tracking the annual bottom-up EPS estimate in 1996. The previous record was -26.4%, which occurred in the first five months of CY 2009.

At the sector level, all 11 sectors have recorded a decrease in their bottom-up EPS estimate for 2020 during this window, led by the Energy (-104.8%), Consumer Discretionary (-58.5%), and Industrials (-53.2%) sectors. Overall, 10 sectors recorded a larger decrease in their bottom-up EPS estimate relative to their five-year average, 10-year average, 15-year average, and 20-year average for the first five months of a year. The Real Estate sector does not have five years of historical data available yet.

Five of the 11 sectors have recorded the largest decline in their annual EPS estimate over the first five months of a year since FactSet began tracking this data in CY 1996: Consumer Discretionary, Energy, Health Care, Industrials, and Real Estate.

As the bottom-up EPS estimate for the index declined during the first five months of the year, the value of the S&P 500 also decreased during this same period. From December 31 through May 28, the value of the index declined by 6.2% (to 3029.73 from 3230.78). This marked the fourth time in the past 20 years in which both the bottom-up EPS estimate and the value of the index decreased during the first five months of a year.

S&P 500 Change in CY20 EPS vs Change in Price (YTD)

If there is a silver lining in these otherwise negative revision numbers, it is that the pace of the cuts to EPS estimates has slowed down in recent weeks. From March 6 through May 22, the average weekly decline in the bottom-up EPS estimate for CY 2020 was $3.91. Over the past week, the decline in the CY 2020 EPS estimate was $0.15.

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John Butters

Vice President, Senior Earnings Analyst, Investor Relations

Mr. John Butters is Vice President and Senior Earnings Analyst at FactSet. His weekly research report, “Earnings Insight,” provides analysis and commentary on trends in corporate earnings data for the S&P 500 including revisions to estimates, year-over-year growth, performance relative to expectations, and valuations. He is a widely used source for the media and has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business News, and the Business News Network. In addition, he has been cited by numerous print and online publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, MarketWatch, and Yahoo! Finance. Mr. Butters has over 15 years of experience in the financial services industry. Prior to FactSet in January 2011, he worked for more than 10 years at Thomson Reuters (Thomson Financial), most recently as Director of U.S. Earnings Research (2007-2010).

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