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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

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — considered the world's largest by volume. Park officials wrapped the trees in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. And officials said early Sunday protection efforts appeared to be working.

2 hours ago - World

U.S. drone strike victims' families in Afghanistan seek compensation

A relative of Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike, looks at the wreckage of a vehicle that was damaged in the strike in the Kwaja Burga neighbourhood of Kabul on Saturday. Photo: Hoshang Hashimi AFP via Getty Images

Relatives of 10 Afghans killed by a U.S. drone strike in Kabul last month said Saturday they want to see punishment and compensation over the deaths.

Driving the news: The relatives said it's "good news" that the U.S. had "officially admitted" that "they had attacked innocents" in the Aug. 29 strike that killed Zamarai Ahmadi, an aid worker with a U.S.-based group, and nine family members, but they still need "justice," per AFP.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
6 hours ago - Science

All-civilian Inspiration4 is back on Earth after flight to space

A side-by-side of the Inspiration4 crew and a shot of their capsule on the way back to Earth. Photo: SpaceX

The all-civilian Inspiration4 crew is back on Earth after their three-day mission in orbit.

The big picture: The launch and landing of this fully amateur, private space crew marks a changing of the guard from spaceflight being a largely government-led venture to being under the purview of private companies.