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S&P 500 Earnings Season Preview: January 10, 2020


By John Butters  |  January 10, 2020

In terms of estimate revisions for companies in the S&P 500, analysts made larger cuts than average to earnings estimates for Q4 2019 during the quarter. On a per-share basis, estimated earnings for the fourth quarter decreased by 4.7% from September 30 through December 31. This percentage decline was larger than the five-year average (-3.3%), the 10-year average (-3.1%), and the 15-year average (-4.4%) for a quarter.

However, a smaller percentage of S&P 500 companies have lowered the bar for earnings for Q4 2019 relative to recent averages. Of the 107 companies that have issued EPS guidance for the fourth quarter, 73 have issued negative EPS guidance and 34 have issued positive EPS guidance. The percentage of companies issuing negative EPS guidance is 68% (73 out of 107), which is below the five-year average of 70%.

Because of the net downward revisions to earnings estimates, the estimated (year-over-year) earnings decline for Q4 2019 is -2.0% today compared to the estimated (year-over-year) earnings growth rate of 2.5% on September 30. If -2.0% is the actual decline for the quarter, it will mark the first time the index has reported four straight quarters of year-over-year declines in earnings since Q3 2015 through Q2 2016. Five sectors are predicted to report year-over-year earnings growth, led by the Utilities and Financials sectors. Six sectors are projected to report a year-over-year decline in earnings, led by the Energy, Consumer Discretionary, and Materials sectors.

S&P 500 Earnings Growth Q4 2019

Because of the net downward revisions to revenue estimates, the estimated (year-over-year) revenue growth rate for Q4 2019 is 2.6% today compared to the estimated (year-over-year) revenue growth rate of 3.6% on September 30. If 2.6% is the actual growth rate for the quarter, it will mark the lowest revenue growth rate for the index since Q2 2016 (-0.2%). Eight sectors are projected to report year-over-year growth in revenues, led by the Health Care, Utilities, and Communication Services sectors. Three sectors are predicted to report a year-over-year decline in revenues, led by the Materials and Energy sectors.

S&P 500 Revenue Growth Q4 2019

Looking at future quarters, analysts see earnings growth between 4.5% and 6.5% for the first half of 2020.

The forward 12-month P/E ratio is 18.4, which is above the five-year average and above the 10-year average.

During the upcoming week, 24 S&P 500 companies (including three Dow 30 components) are scheduled to report results for the fourth quarter.

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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).