November 16, 2020
Q3 RESULTS BRIGHTEN 2021 PICTURE
Jeffrey Buchbinder, CFA, Equity Strategist, LPL Financial
Ryan Detrick, CMT, Chief Market Strategist, LPL Financial
Corporate America delivered quite an encore to a surprisingly good second quarter earnings season with more of the same in the third quarter, despite a higher bar. S&P 500 Index companies didn’t quite match the biggest upside surprise ever—but they came close. We’re optimistic about the earnings recovery in 2021 and beyond, and outline five key takeaways for investors.
AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE
Earnings blew away expectations during the second quarter as the unprecedented COVID-19 lock downs early in the quarter, followed by the uncertainty and unevenness of the reopening and limited guidance from corporate leaders, caused analysts to badly miss with their forecasts. In the third quarter, analysts had more information and the environment included fewer twists and turns, which should have made predicting results much easier. Still, analysts were overly pessimistic by nearly the same margin, as earnings results far surpassed expectations.
Putting numbers to it, with more than 90% of S&P 500 companies having reported quarterly results so far, S&P 500 earnings are tracking to a 7.5% year-over-year decline, roughly 14 percentage points better than September 30 estimates (source: Fact Set) [Figure 1]. Revenue is tracking to only a 1.7% year-over-year decline, a solid 1.9 percentage points above prior estimates.