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Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

A record number of S&P 500 companies have said their second-quarter earnings would be better than what analysts expect.

Why it matters: Companies provide guidance, or their projection for their financial performance, so that the market isn’t too surprised when they announce actual results.

  • However, they risk disappointing investors and triggering a stock selloff if those actual results ultimately fall short.

By the numbers: A company’s guidance is considered positive if it is higher than the median analyst’s estimate for the metric.

  • Of the S&P 500 companies, 103 offered Q2 earnings guidance, according to FactSet data.
  • A record 66 of these companies provided positive guidance.

Flashback: In Q2 of 2020 during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, just 53 companies offered any kind of guidance due to lack of visibility as the economic lockdown was totally unprecedented.

What they’re saying: The fact that a record number of companies are issuing positive guidance confirms Wall Street continues to be too conservative about earnings prospects, DataTrek Research’s Nicholas Colas wrote in an email on Monday.

  • Earnings have been driving the rally over the past year, and if expectations for positive outcomes are still going up, it seems to be reason enough for stocks to keep following suit.

What to watch: Companies will start announcing their actual results in two or three weeks.

  • "Q2 2021 earnings season needs to show real upside to Wall Street expectations to keep the current US bull market on track, and the last 2 weeks’ ‘guidance season’ confirms that it should," Colas wrote.

Go deeper

Sep 8, 2021 - Health

Humana says pandemic is slowing routine care again

Humana is seeing dips in non-COVID care again. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Humana has recorded more COVID-19 hospitalizations among its Medicare Advantage members in the past few weeks due to rising coronavirus cases. But non-COVID inpatient and outpatient care also appears to be declining as a result, the health insurance company said late Tuesday.

Why it matters: Health insurers profited heavily last year when hospitals and doctors delayed routine medical care, and that dynamic appears to be happening again.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
26 mins ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
56 mins ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.