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Wall Street analysts more upbeat on overseas earnings: BofA

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Analysts who follow U.S. multinationals are the most optimistic they've been in 16 months, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists.

Savita Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy, tracks earnings revisions and notes that Wall Street firms have generally been raising and cutting earnings outlooks at an equal rate for the past five months. But now there appears to be a marked shift in sentiment within sectors.

Analysts are becoming less negative on stocks with foreign exposure, amid improvement in Europe and signs of a pickup in the global economy. The earnings revision ratio for the top S&P 500 companies with high percentages of overseas sales has been on an uptrend since August, and, at 0.8, is at the highest level since May 2012.

Materials and industrials had the biggest increase in their earnings revision ratios last month, and industrials are now seeing more positive than negative earnings revisions for the first time since June 2012.

At the same time, analysts are less optimistic on stocks that are more U.S. focused, and the earnings ratio on pure domestic plays have been declining for four months. Telecom stocks saw their ratio decline the most, and financials are beginning to see an increase in negative revisions after hitting the most positive level since 2004.

(Read more: Why earnings season may be a rough ride)

Subramanian says management is "still in the bunkers." She said the ratio of above-versus-below-consensus guidance was unchanged last month, with management guiding earnings expectations below consensus more than twice as much as those guiding above. The only sector that did not follow this trend was health care, where managements were the most positive. The most negative managements were at technology and utility companies. She said guidance has been very light, as it has been ahead of the last several earnings seasons.

"There were only 32 instances of guidance by S&P companies, below the Sept average of 70 and just one more than last Sept's all-time low of 31," she wrote.

—By CNBC's Patti Domm. Follow here on Twitter @pattidomm.

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