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S&P 500 Now Projected to Report a Year-over-Year Decline in Earnings in Q4 2019


By John Butters  |  November 4, 2019

As of November 1, 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 for the S&P 500 stood at -2.7%. If -2.7% is the actual earnings decline for the quarter, it will mark the first time the index has reported three straight quarters of year-over-year declines in earnings since Q4 2015 through Q2 2016. It will also mark the largest year-over-year decline in earnings since Q2 2016 (-3.2%).

Looking at the fourth quarter (Q4 2019), what are analyst expectations for year-over-year earnings? Do analysts believe earnings will decline in the fourth quarter of 2019 as well?

The answer is yes.

Over the past week, the aggregate earnings growth rate for Q3 2019 changed from slight year-over-year earnings growth on October 25 (+0.3%) to a slight year-over-year earnings decline as of November 1 (-0.4%).

However, expectations for earnings growth for Q4 2019 have been falling over the past few months. On June 30, the estimated earnings growth rate for Q4 2019 was 5.6%. By September 30, the estimated earnings growth rate had fallen to 2.4%. As of November 1, the earnings decline stood at -0.4%.

Five of the 11 sectors are now projected to report a year-over-year decrease in earnings for the fourth quarter, led by the Energy (-29.7%) and Consumer Discretionary (-10.3%) sectors.

If the index reports a year-over-year decline in earnings in both the third quarter and the fourth quarter, it will mark the first time the index will have reported four consecutive quarters of year-over-year earnings declines since Q3 2015 through Q2 2016. Analysts currently expect earnings growth to return in the first quarter of 2020 (5.6%).

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John Butters

Vice President, Senior Earnings Analyst

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).


The information contained in this article is not investment advice. FactSet does not endorse or recommend any investments and assumes no liability for any consequence relating directly or indirectly to any action or inaction taken based on the information contained in this article.