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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.

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Why it matters: Testing shortages and backlogs underscore a need for improved mass testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic tests based on CRISPR — which Doudna and colleagues identified in 2012, ushering in the "CRISPR revolution" in genome editing — are being developed for dengue, Zika and other diseases, but a global pandemic is a proving ground for these tools that hold promise for speed and lower costs.