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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Sep 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

A credit upgrade cycle may be coming

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. companies have taken on a historic amount of debt this year, with investment grade corporates already issuing a record $1.5 trillion in bonds, more than any full-year total ever. But many have also upped their holdings of cash, making net debt burdens far lower than expected, data from Bank of America Securities shows.

Why it matters: Lower indebtedness means companies will have stronger balance sheets and better ratings. That could mean not only do fewer companies default on debt than expected, but it "ultimately should lead to an upgrade cycle" in credit ratings, BofA analysts say.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12 a.m. ET: 33,282,969 — Total deaths: 1,000,867 — Total recoveries: 23,066,203Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12 a.m. ET: 7,148,009 — Total deaths: 205,069 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
  3. Business: Companies are still holding back earnings guidance.
  4. Health: Trump announces plan to distribute 150 million rapid tests —The childless vaccine.
  5. Media: Fauci: Some of what Fox News reports about COVID-19 is "outlandish"
  6. States: Cuomo extends New York moratorium on evictions until 2021.
  7. World: More than 1 million people have now died from coronavirus — India the second country after U.S. to hit 6 million cases.

Bob Woodward: "I was not going to hide" my opinion on Trump

Bob Woodward didn't want to join Senate Republicans in privately condemning President Trump but declining to do so publicly, he told Jonathan Swan in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

Why it matters: Woodward has covered 9 presidents, but Trump is the first that Woodward explicitly described as "the wrong man for the job."

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!