Why S&P 500 Revenue And EPS Forecasts Were Just Slashed By One Third

Less than three months ago, on September 30, 2014, "consensus" expected that EPS and revenue growth in 2015 would be 11.8% and 4.3%, respectively. As of December 19, those projected growth rates have plunged to 7.9% and 2.8%. In other words, both revenue and EPS growth has been slashed by one third in under one quarter (while revenue growth for Q1 and Q2 2015 has cratered from 4.5% and 3.6% to 1.4% and 1.0%, respectively). Why? Spotting the "odd one out" in the charts below should provide the answer:

EPS:

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Revenue:

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And that's before the majors have even provided their own substantial guide downs. Bottom line: S&P revenue and (non-GAAP) EPS are going even lower in 2015 until the new equlibrium in energy is uncovered, which considering all the record dumping that is about to take place, means it will take a long time before one has a grasp on where sales and EPS in 2015 will stabilize.

And here is Factset with its own take on the "consensus" facts:

Not only has the estimated earnings growth rate for Q4 declined since the start of the quarter, the estimated earnings growth rates for the first half of 2015 have come down sharply over this same time frame as well. For Q1 2015, and Q2 2015, analysts are currently predicting earnings growth rates of 4.5% and 5.7%, respectively. These earnings growth rates are well below the estimated growth rates of 9.7% and 10.5% for these same two quarters back on September 30. Similar to Q4, most of the decline in the expected earnings growth rates for both quarters can be attributed to analysts lowering earnings forecasts for companies in the Energy sector.

Analysts have cut revenue estimates for the first half of 2015 as well. For Q1 2015 and Q2 2015, analysts are currently predicting revenue growth rates of 1.4% and 1.0%. These revenue growth rates are also well below the estimated growth rates of 4.5% and 3.6% for these same two quarters back on September 30.

Given the divergence in expected earnings and revenue growth over the next few quarters, however, analysts are expecting profit margins to continue to expand in 2015. Using the bottom-up sales-pershare (SPS) and earnings-per-share (EPS) estimates for the S&P 500 as proxies for expected sales and earnings for the index over the next few quarters, profit margin estimates can be calculated by dividing the expected EPS by the expected SPS for each quarter. Using this methodology, the estimated net profit margins for Q1 2015 and Q2 2015 are 10.2% and 10.6%. These numbers are above the estimated net profit margin for Q4 2014 (10.1%), and are also well above the average net profit margin of 9.4% recorded over the past four years.

Analysts have also lowered earnings and revenue estimates for all of 2015. The current earnings growth estimate for 2015 of 7.9% is below the estimate of 11.8% on September 30. The current revenue growth estimate for 2015 of 2.8% is below the estimate of 4.3% on September 30. Again, estimate reductions for companies in the Energy sector account for most of the decline in both the earnings growth rate and revenue growth rate for 2015.

But fear not: sliding non-GAAP EPS (which also means plummeting GAAP EPS) is nothing that a little more multiple expansion and stock buybacks can't fix (just remember to ignore everything that Blackrock warned about earlier namely that "S&P 500 Profits Are 86% Higher Than They Would Be Without Accounting Fudges"). So keep calm and BTFATH.

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