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JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

By the numbers: After a strong week of bank earnings last week, 81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive EPS surprise for Q1, on pace to tie the mark for the second-highest percentage of positive EPS surprises since FactSet started tracking the data in 2008.

  • The blended earnings growth rate for Q1 is 30.2%, which if it stands would mark the highest year-over-year earnings growth for the S&P in more than a decade (34% in Q3 2010).
  • The lofty numbers have jumped in a short time, as the estimated earnings growth rate for Q1 2021 was 23.8% as recently as March 31.
  • Last week's reports were dominated by the big banks, with JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley all reporting record earnings.

The big picture: The big numbers in the first quarter are not expected to be an aberration. Analysts also predict double-digit earnings growth for the remaining three quarters of 2021 thanks to a combination of higher earnings and an easier comparison to 2020 as a result of the COVID-19-pandemic.

  • Goldman Sachs’ derivatives research team said in a note to clients that options markets are pointing to broad upside moves for stocks during earnings season.

Yes, but: Only 9% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings, and those have largely been in the banking sector, which has gotten a major boost from lower-than-expected loan losses.

  • Banks delivered a blowout year-over-year earnings growth rate of 248%.

What's next: This week will bring earnings reports from dozens of big names including Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, United Airlines, Intel and Netflix, with the Dow and S&P starting the week at record highs.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.

4 hours ago - World

Canadian Indigenous group finds 93 suspected unmarked graves

A makeshift memorial honoring the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, last May. Photo: Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous leaders in Canada's western province of British Columbia said Tuesday they believe they've found 93 unmarked graves near a former boarding school.

The big picture: Hundreds of mass graves have been found at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children since last May, when the remains of 215 children were uncovered at one such site in B.C.

7 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."