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S&P 500 quarterly earnings: Second quarter earnings outlook for sectors and stocks

Sam Subramanian PhD, MBA

Earnings reports are an important factor driving stock prices. The S&P 500 quarterly earnings parade starts in a few weeks. How is the 2nd quarter earnings outlook shaping up for different sectors and stocks?

The S&P 500 companies are set to report their second-quarter earnings in a few weeks.

During the first quarter, S&P 500 quarterly earnings grew 14.0% from the year-ago period. This exceeded analysts' 9.0% earnings growth forecast at the end of the quarter on March 31.

The first quarter earnings reporting season was strong.

So, how are expectations shaping for 2nd quarter earnings?

S&P 500 quarterly earnings: 2nd quarter outlook in aggregate

FactSet data show analysts expect S&P 500 company earnings to grow 6.5% in the second quarter. As in prior quarters, analysts have trimmed growth forecasts since the start of the second quarter.

They have cut earnings growth forecasts by 2.2% from 8.7% they expected on March 31.

This reduction in expected earnings is lower than the 4.3% average for the past five years.

S&P 500 quarterly earnings: 2nd quarter outlook for sectors and stocks

Analysts expect year-over-year growth in second quarter earnings in nine of the 11 sectors. Energy, information technology, and financial sectors are forecasted to lead the way.

Analysts expect earnings to shrink in consumer discretionary and utility sectors.

S&P 500 quarterly earnings: Second quarter earnings outlook for sectors and stocks

S&P 500 quarterly earnings are forecasted to rise 6.5% in the second quarter with energy sector earnings contributing the most to growth.

Analysts expect the energy sector's earnings to grow an abnormally high 401.3%. This is due to the low profits recorded in the 2nd quarter of 2016.

Low oil prices limited aggregate profits in the energy sector to just $1.9 billion in the 2nd quarter of 2016. Energy company profits are forecasted to increase to $9.6 billion in this year's second quarter.

Analysts expect sector heavyweights ExxonMobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX), and ConocoPhillips (COP) to record triple digit growth in second quarter earnings.

The information technology sector is expected to contribute to S&P 500 company earnings growth. Here, semiconductor companies are forecasted to increase their EPS at a rapid rate.

Micron Technology (MU) is forecasted to earn $1.50 a share, reversing last year's loss of 8 cents a share. Analysts expect NVIDIA (NVDA) and Applied Materials (AMAT) to grow their second quarter EPS over 70% from the year-ago period.

Analysts have raised their earnings estimates in the financial sector after the Federal Reserve hiked benchmark interest rates in March and June this year. Insurers are forecasted to lead growth here. American International Group (AIG), Prudential Financial (PRU), and Allstate (ALL) are all expected to grow EPS by over 20%.

Risk to S&P 500 quarterly earnings

The energy sector accounts for nearly 45% of the growth expected in S&P 500 quarterly earnings in the second quarter. In other words, the S&P 500's expected earnings growth rate would drop to 3.6% from 6.5%, if the energy sector is excluded.

Likewise, the energy sector is expected to contribute nearly 30% of the growth expected in S&P 500 quarterly earnings for all of 2017.

The energy sector's earnings depend on the price of oil. They change by nearly $1 billion for every $1 change in the price of oil.

This relatively large dependence of S&P 500 quarterly earnings growth on the energy sector's earnings and the price of oil poses some risk.

The price of oil has averaged higher in the second quarter of 2017 compared to its average in the second quarter of 2016. However, oil prices have off-late fallen more than 10% below the current quarter's average due to oversupply.

Meanwhile, analysts are optimistic on the energy sector's earnings in the second half of 2017. They expect oil prices in the second half of 2017 to exceed the second quarter's average and help the energy sector's earnings to exceed its second quarter tally.

If the price of oil, however, does not rebound relatively soon, analysts would be forced to reduce their energy sector earnings forecasts. This would effectively lower S&P 500 quarterly earnings growth expectations for the second half of 2017.

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Related Articles:
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Fidelity Select Funds: Choose the Best Fidelity Sector Fund Consistently
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