Looking Ahead To Q2 Earnings Season

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We are still waiting on Q1 earnings results from a couple of dozen S&P 500 members at this stage, but the reporting cycle is effectively behind us now.

In fact, of the 15 S&P 500 members on deck to report results this week, two will actually get counted towards the Q2 earnings season. These two are AutoZone (AZO - Free Report) reporting on Tuesday, May 25th, and Costco (COST - Free Report) reporting after the market’s close on Thursday, May 27th. Both of these retailers will be reporting results for their fiscal quarters ending in May, which we and other data aggregators count as part of the June-quarter reporting tally.

The other 13 S&P 500 members reporting results this week, which includes bellwethers like NVIDIA (NVDA - Free Report), Salesforce.com (CRM - Free Report), Dollar General (DG - Free Report), and other will be reporting results for their fiscal quarters ending in April, which form part of the March-quarter reporting tally.

We all know that the overall earnings picture is very strong, with broad-based growth momentum across all major sectors and the overall earnings tally reaching a new all-time quarterly record in Q1.

The year-over-year growth numbers were very strong in Q1, partly reflecting the easy comparisons to the year-earlier period. The easy comparisons issue will be even more pronounced in Q2 as the corresponding 2020 period represented the pandemic’s severest impact.

We should keep in mind, however, that the strong earnings growth we saw in Q1 and the even stronger growth expected in Q2 is also reflective of genuine growth in the absolute sense, not just a result of easy comparisons. Take a look at the chart below to get a better sense of this reality.

These are quarterly earnings totals, with aggregate earnings estimates for 2021 Q2, and actually reported earnings for 2020 Q2 and 2019 Q2 highlighted.

You can see that 2021 Q2 earnings for the S&P 500 index are expected to be up +58.4% from the Covid-hit 2020 Q2 period. But even relative to the pre-Covid 2019 Q2 period, 2021 Q2 earnings are expected to be up +7.3%.

Estimates have been steadily going up, as we have been consistently pointing out in our earnings commentary, though the favorable revisions trend has eased off in recent weeks. The chart below shows earnings growth expectations for 2021 Q2 have changed since early January.

The chart below takes a big-picture view of the quarterly earnings and revenue growth pace.

The chart below presents the big-picture view on an annual basis. As you can see below, 2021 earnings and revenues are expected to be up +33.2% and +9.9%, respectively, which follows the Covid-driven decline of -13.1% in 2020.

On an index ‘EPS’ basis, the 2021 expectation works out to $181.02, up from $135.98 per ‘Index share’ in 2020.

These full-year estimates have been going up as well, as the chart below shows.

Recap of Q1 Earnings Season Scorecard (As of Friday, May 21st)

We now have Q1 results from 477 S&P 500 members or 95.4% of the index’s total membership. Total earnings (or aggregate net income) for these 477 companies are up +48.4% from the same period last year on +10.1% higher revenues, with 86% beating EPS and 77.4% beating revenue estimates.

As noted earlier, we have 13 index members on deck to report Q1 results this week.

The two sets of comparison charts below put the Q1 results from these 477 index members in a historical context, which should give us a sense how the Q1 earnings season is tracking at this stage relative to other recent periods.

The first set of comparison charts compare the earnings and revenue growth rates for these 477 index members.

The growth comparison is likely not fair, given the unusually high year-over-year growth rates in the Finance sector, a function of big reserve releases and easy comparisons in 2021 Q1.

On an ex-Finance basis, the Q1 earnings growth for the remaining companies that have reported results drops to +37.2%. But even on an ex-Finance basis, the Q1 earnings growth rate still compares favorably to other recent periods.

The second set of charts compare the proportion of these index members beating EPS and revenue estimates.

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