Aug 11, 2020 - Economy & Business

Historic beats have earnings paced to exceed already awful expectations

S&P 500 companies' earnings in the second quarter have been historically good and also historically bad.

What's happening: Earnings are still on pace to be awful, but they are handily beating even more awful expectations from analysts.

On one side: With 439 companies, or 90%, having reported, Q2 earnings per share have beaten expectations by a record 17%, with an all-time-high 59% of companies beating on both EPS and sales, according to an analysis by Bank of America.

  • FAANG earnings beat by close to 50%, contributing 25% of the overall S&P beat.
  • 83% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive EPS surprise for Q2 to date, the highest percentage since FactSet began tracking this metric in 2008.

On the other side: S&P 500 EPS is on pace to decline by 28.7% year to date for the first half of the year, the largest first half decrease since FactSet began tracking annual bottom-up EPS estimates in 1996.

  • Earnings for Q2 are on pace to decline 33.8%, which would mark the largest year-over-year decline in earnings since Q1 2009 (-35.4%).
  • Earnings had been on pace for the worst quarter since Q4 2008 when earnings fell by 69%.

The S&P's forward 12-month P/E ratio also remains historically stretched at 22.3, well above the 5-year average (17.0) and the 10-year average (15.3) for the index.

Go deeper