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S&P 500 Earnings Season Update: April 30, 2021

Earnings

By John Butters  |  April 30, 2021

At this point in time, more S&P 500 companies are beating EPS estimates for the first quarter than average and beating EPS estimates by a wider margin than average. As a result, the index is reporting higher earnings for the first quarter today relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the first quarter. The index is now reporting the highest year-over-year growth in earnings since Q1 2010 for Q1. Analysts also expect double-digit earnings growth for the remaining three quarters of 2021. These above-average growth rates are due to a combination of higher earnings for 2021 and an easier comparison to unusually weak earnings in 2020 due to the negative impact of COVID-19 on numerous industries.

Earnings Continue to Beat Estimates

Overall, 60% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported actual results for Q1 2021 to date. Of these companies, 86% have reported actual EPS above estimates, which is above the five-year average of 74%. If 86% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will mark the highest percentage of S&P 500 companies reporting a positive EPS surprise since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008. In aggregate, companies are reporting earnings that are 22.8% above the estimates, which is also above the five-year average of 6.9%. If 22.8% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will mark the second-highest earnings surprise percentage reported by the index since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008.

S&P 500 Earnings Above In Line Below Estimates Q1 2021

Due to the number and magnitude of these positive EPS surprises, the index is reporting higher earnings for the first quarter today relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the first quarter. The blended (combines actual results for companies that have reported and estimated results for companies that have yet to report) earnings growth rate for the first quarter is 45.8% today, compared to an earnings growth rate of 33.8% last week and an earnings growth rate of 23.8% at the end of the first quarter (March 31). Positive earnings surprises reported by companies in multiple sectors (led by the Information Technology, Communication Services, and Consumer Discretionary sectors) were responsible for the significant improvement in overall earnings for the index during the past week. Positive earnings surprises reported by companies in the Financials, Information Technology, Communications Services, and Consumer Discretionary sectors have been the top contributors to the increase in overall earnings for the index since the end of the first quarter.

S&P 500 Earnings Growth Q1 2021

If 45.8% is the actual growth rate for the quarter, it will mark the highest year-over-year earnings growth reported by the index since Q1 2010 (55.4%). The unusually high growth rate is due to a combination of higher earnings in Q1 2021 and an easier comparison to unusually weak earnings in Q1 2020 due to the negative impact of COVID-19 on numerous industries. Ten sectors are reporting year-over-year earnings growth, led by the Consumer Discretionary, Financials, Materials, and Communication Services sectors. The Industrials sector is the only sector reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings.

Revenues Are Also Coming in Ahead of Estimates

In terms of revenues, 78% of S&P 500 companies have reported actual revenues above estimates, which is above the five-year average of 64%. If 78% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will tie the mark (with Q4 2017) for the second-highest percentage of S&P 500 companies reporting a positive revenue surprise since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008. In aggregate, companies are reporting revenues that are 3.7% above the estimates, which is above the five-year average of 1.0%. If 3.7% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will mark the largest revenue surprise percentage reported by the index since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008.

S&P 500 Revenues Above In Line Below Estimates Q1 2021

Due to the number and magnitude of these revenue surprises, the blended revenue growth rate for the first quarter is higher now relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the first quarter. As of today, the S&P 500 is reporting year-over-year growth in revenues of 9.1%, compared to year-over-year growth in revenues of 7.5% last week and year-over-year growth in revenues of 6.2% at the end of the first quarter (March 31). Positive revenue surprises reported by companies in multiple sectors (led by the Information Technology and Communication Services sectors) were responsible for the substantial increase in overall revenues for the index over the past week. Positive revenue surprises reported by companies in the Financials, Information Technology, Communication Services, and Energy sectors have been the largest contributors to the increase in overall revenues for the index since the end of the first quarter.

S&P 500 Revenue Growth Q1 2021

If 9.1% is the actual growth rate for the quarter, it will mark the highest year-over-year revenue growth reported by the index since Q2 2018 (10.5%). Nine sectors are reporting year-over-year growth in revenues, led by the Information Technology, Consumer Discretionary, and Communication Services sectors. Two sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in revenues: Industrials and Energy.

Looking at future quarters, analysts project double-digit earnings growth for the remaining three quarters of 2021, with earnings growth expected to peak in Q2 2021 at 58.3%

The forward 12-month P/E ratio is 22.0, which is above the five-year average and above the 10-year average.

During the upcoming week, 133 S&P 500 companies are scheduled to report results for the first quarter.

Listen to Earnings Insight on the go! In our weekly Earnings Insight podcast, John Butters provides an update on S&P 500 corporate earnings and related topics based on his popular Earnings Insight publication. The podcast is made available every Monday—listen on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or factset.com.

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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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