Winter 2024 Snapshot Of Expected Future S&P 500 Earnings

Every three months, we take a snapshot of the expectations for future earnings in the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) at approximately the midpoint of the current quarter, shortly after most U.S. firms have announced their previous quarter's earnings.

Since our last update three months ago, expectations for the S&P 500's earnings slumped in the near term and are stretching out the recovery from 2022's earnings recession. The S&P 500's earnings per share had been expected to return to their March 2022 peak of $197.91 during the first quarter of 2024, but that full recovery now looks to be delayed until after June 2024.

The following chart reveals how the latest earnings outlook has changed with respect to previous snapshots:

Forecasts for S&P 500 Trailing Twelve Month Earnings per Share, December 2017-December 2024, Snapshot on 14 February 2024

Here is a summary of the major observations that may be seen in the changes in Standard & Poor's earnings projections from 8 November 2023 to 14 February 2024:

  • Earnings for 2023-Q4 decreased from a projection of $196.02 to $189.74. These earnings are still being reported, so this value is not yet final.
  • Projected earnings for 2024-Q1 dropped from $199.17 to $190.54. This change suggests near-zero earnings growth during the first quarter of 2024.
  • S&P projects faster earnings growth during the second half of 2024.
  • Despite that faster-anticipated growth, the S&P 500's earnings per share is still expected to dip from $220.70 to $217.99 at the end of 2024.

If you look at the historic earnings expectations shown on the chart, particularly the period since 2021, you'll notice a negative pattern in which later projections for earnings are less optimistic than the projections that preceded them. With 2024-Q1's anticipated earnings per share looking to be nearly unchanged from 2023-Q4's level, should that pattern hold, our spring update may show the start of a "double-dip" earnings recession for the S&P 500.
 

About Earnings Recessions

Depending on who you talk to, an earnings recession has one of two definitions. An earnings recession exists if either earnings decline over at least two consecutive quarters or if there is a year-over-year decline over at least two quarters. The chart identifies the periods in which the quarter-on-quarter decline in earnings definition for an earnings recession is confirmed for both the Pandemic Earnings Recession (December 2020-December 2021) and the new earnings recession (March 2022-December 2022) according to the first definition. The regions of the graph shaded in light-red correspond to the full period in which the S&P 500's earnings per share remained below (or are projected to remain below) its pre-earnings recession levels.

Let's define what a "double-dip" earnings recession would be in case that becomes relevant at the time of our next update. This term describes the situation where after having begun to recover, the S&P 500's earnings per share stops rising and falls without having recovered to its pre-earnings recession level.

Our next snapshot of the index' expected future earnings will be in three months.


Reference

Silverblatt, Howard. Standard & Poor. S&P 500 Earnings and Estimates. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 14 February 2024. Accessed 17 February 2024.


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