Corporate America, we have a problem.
The fourth quarter of 2015 looks to be the third straight quarter in which S&P 500 companies' profits fell versus the year prior. This would be the first time this has happened since 2009 (when profits fell in Q1, Q2 and Q3).
The official numbers aren't out yet, since not every S&P 500 company has reported results for the period. However, a combination of the results from the first 63 percent that have reported, and the expected results from those companies yet to report, yields a combined earnings decline of 3.8 percent, according to FactSet. (Note that this number should rise a bit as results are released, as the average company beats expectations.)
To be sure, the low-oil-plagued energy sector, and its 74 percent earnings decline, has been a big contributor to the overall drop. But it's worth noting that six of the ten S&P 500 sectors are seeing their earnings fall compared with fourth quarter of 2014.