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Zacks Earnings Trends Highlights: Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, Gilead Sciences and Verizon

CHICAGO, Aug. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks Director of Research Sheraz Mian says, "Total earnings for the S&P 500 reached a new all-time quarterly record, and increasing by +8.1% from the same period last year on +4.4% higher revenues"

Zacks Investment Research, Inc., www.zacks.com

Q2 Earnings Season in the Rearview

The composite picture for Q2, combining the actual results from the 494 S&P 500 members that have reported with estimates for the still-to-come 6 companies, shows total earnings reaching a new all-time quarterly record, and increasing by +8.1% from the same period last year on +4.4% higher revenues. This is a material improvement over the preceding quarter, when total earnings and revenues were essentially flat.

Estimates for the 2014 Q3 have started coming down, with the current +3.5% total earnings growth expected in the current period down from +6.3% at the start of the quarter. But the magnitude of negative revisions in Q3 thus far is the lowest we have seen in more than a year. The chart below compares the magnitude of negative revision to 2014 Q3 estimates over the first eight weeks of the quarter to negative revisions over comparable periods in the preceding 5 quarters.

The -1.1% decline in the magnitude of total earnings for Q3 over the first eight weeks of the quarter is the lowest decline that we have seen in comparable periods over the preceding 5 quarters. If sustained over the next reporting season (Q3 earnings season), this will represent a material improvement in the corporate earnings picture.

Key Points

  • The 2014 Q2 earnings season is presenting a much improved picture of the overall earnings picture relative to what we have become used to seeing in recent quarters.
  • Total earnings for the 494 S&P 500 members that have reported results are up +8.1% on +4.4% higher revenues, with 65.3% beating EPS estimates and 61.9% coming ahead of revenue estimates. This is better performance than we have saw from the same group of companies in recent quarters, with the revenue beat ratio notably impressive.
  • The Retail sector's results have been no better than what we have been seeing in other recent quarters. Total earnings for the 97.7% of retail sector companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results are up +2.6% on +5.5% higher revenues. Most of the sector leaders like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT-Free Report), Target (NYSE:TGT-Free Report), Macy's (NYSE:M-Free Report) and others have guided lower for the current period.
  • Growth from the Technology sector has been the best in many recent quarters, with total earnings up +12.1% on +5.9% higher revenues. Other sectors with strong earnings performance include Medical (Up +15.8%), Construction (+14.2%), Utilities (+12.3%), Aerospace (+10.7%), Transportation (+11.5%), and Energy (+12.4%).
  • The Medical sector's +15.8% earnings growth on +12.4% higher revenues is primarily due to strength at Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq:GILD-Free Report), but most of the sector companies have also come out with positive earnings and revenue beats. Easy comparisons at Verizon (NYSE:VZ-Free Report) account for the Utilities sector's strong growth numbers.   
  • The composite Q2 picture for the S&P 500, combining the actual results from the 494 companies with estimates for the 6 still to come, is for earnings to be up +8.1% from the same period last year, on +4.4% higher revenues and 34 basis points in higher margins.
  • The Q2 earnings is moving along nicely for the small-cap space as well, with results from 568 S&P 600 members or 94.7% of the index's total membership already out. Total earnings for these 568 index members are up +12.4% on +9.4% higher revenues, with 49.1% beating EPS estimates and 38.0% coming ahead of top-line expectations.
  • The beat ratios for these 568 S&P 600 members are lower relative to what we have seen from this same group of companies in other recent quarters, but the earnings and revenue growth rates compare favorably to historical levels.

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