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S&P 500 Earnings Season Update: November 6, 2020

Earnings

By John Butters  |  November 6, 2020

At this point in time, the percentage of S&P 500 companies beating EPS estimates for the third quarter and the magnitude of the earnings beats are at or near record levels. As a result, the index is reporting higher earnings for the third quarter today relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the quarter. Despite the increase in earnings, the index is still reporting the third largest year-over-year decline in earnings since Q3 2009, mainly due to the negative impact of COVID-19 on a number of industries within the index. However, the S&P 500 is projected to report year-over-year earnings growth starting in Q1 2021.

Earnings Continue to Beat Estimates

Overall, 89% of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported actual results for Q3 2020 to date. Of these companies, 86% have reported actual EPS above estimates, which is well above the five-year average of 73%. 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. The current record is 84%, which occurred in Q2 2020. In aggregate, these companies are reporting earnings that are 19.5% above the estimates, which is also well above the five-year average of 5.6%. If 19.5% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will mark the second largest earnings surprise percentage reported by the index since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008, trailing only the 23.1% earnings surprise percentage recorded in the previous quarter.

S&P 500 Earnings Above In Line Below Estimates Q3 2020

Due to the number and magnitude of these positive EPS surprises, the blended (combines actual results for companies that have reported and estimated results for companies that have yet to report) earnings decline for the third quarter is smaller now relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the third quarter. As of today, the S&P 500 is reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings of -7.5%, compared to a year-over-year decline in earnings of -9.9% last week and a year-over-year decline in earnings of -21.2% at the end of the third quarter. Positive earnings surprises reported by companies in multiple sectors (led by the Health Care and Consumer Discretionary sectors) were responsible for the decrease in the overall earnings decline during the past week.

S&P 500 Earnings Growth Q3 2020

If -7.5% is the actual decline for the quarter, it will mark the third largest year-over-year decline in earnings reported by the index since Q3 2009 (-15.8%), trailing only the previous two quarters. It will also mark the sixth time in the past seven quarters in which the index has reported a year-over-year decline in earnings. Five sectors are reporting year-over-year earnings growth, led by the Health Care sector. Six sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings, led by the Energy, Industrials, and Consumer Discretionary sectors.

Revenues Shrinking

In terms of revenues, 79% of S&P 500 companies have reported actual revenues above estimates, which is above the five-year average of 61%. If 79% is the final percentage for the quarter, it will mark the highest percentage of S&P 500 companies reporting a positive revenue surprise since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008. The current record is 78%, which occurred in Q4 2017. In aggregate, companies are reporting revenues that are 2.6% above the estimates, which is also above the five-year average of 0.7%. If 2.6% 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. The current record is 2.2%, which occurred in Q4 2012.

S&P 500 Revenues Above In Line Below Estimates Q3 2020

Due to the number and magnitude of these revenue surprises, the blended revenue decline for the third quarter is smaller now relative to the end of last week and relative to the end of the third quarter. As of today, the S&P 500 is reporting a year-over-year decline in revenues of -1.7%, compared to a year-over-year decline in revenues of -2.1% last week and a year-over-year decline in earnings of -3.6% at the end of the third quarter. Positive revenue surprises reported by companies in multiple sectors (led by the Health Care sector) were responsible for the decrease in the overall revenue decline during the past week.

S&P 500 Revenue Growth Q3 2020

If -1.7% is the actual decline for the quarter, it will mark the first time the index has reported two consecutive quarters of year-over-year revenue declines since Q1 2016 and Q2 2016. Five sectors are reporting year-over-year growth in revenues, led by the Health Care sector. Six sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in revenues, led by the Energy and Industrials sectors.

Looking at future quarters, analysts predict a (year-over-year) decline in earnings in the fourth quarter (-10.9%) of 2020. However, they are also project a return to earnings growth starting in Q1 2021 (14.5%).

The forward 12-month P/E ratio is 21.6, which is above the five-year average and above the 10-year average.

During the upcoming week, 15 S&P 500 companies (including three Dow 30 components) are scheduled to report results for the third quarter.

Now you can listen to Earnings Insight on the go! In our new 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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