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Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

It’s not just stock prices and FICO scores that are hitting record highs. In the first quarter of this year, 403 of the stocks in the S&P 500 delivered earnings higher than Wall Street analysts had forecast — a record that was promptly broken in the second quarter, when 407 stocks achieved that feat.

The big picture: Earnings beats are always more the rule than the exception, even during bear markets. But these levels are unprecedented.

The big question: How are so many companies managing to beat expectations, quarter in and quarter out?

  • The strong economy, combined with tax-cut revenues, certainly helps.
  • Companies announce earnings guidance figures they know they can beat, in a sign that they're feeling very little pressure from Wall Street that their profits aren't high enough.

The bottom line: Wall Street is enjoying a rare period of being very happy with the companies it invests in and the amount of money they're making.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Special report: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump began his term by launching the trade war with China he had promised on the campaign trail. By mid-2020, however, Trump was no longer the public face of China policy-making as he became increasingly consumed with domestic troubles, giving his top aides carte blanche to pursue a cascade of tough-on-China policies.

Why it matters: Trump alone did not reshape the China relationship. But his trade war shattered global norms, paving the way for administration officials to pursue policies that just a few years earlier would have been unthinkable.

McConnell: Trump "provoked" Capitol mob

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

GOP leaders skip Trump sendoff in favor of church with Biden

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in July. Photo by Erin Scott-Pool/Getty Images

Congressional leaders, including House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will skip President Trump's departure ceremony in Maryland tomorrow morning in favor of attending mass with incoming President Joe Biden ahead of his inauguration, congressional sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Their decision is a clear sign of unity before Biden takes the oath of office.