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CNBC's Pisani: Something Wrong With Earnings?

Wednesday, 24 Jan 2007 | 11:41 AM ET

Are Q4 earnings disappointing? Markets are acting that way, particularly in techs, where sell on the news seems to be the order of the day, with a few exceptions. But is it really disappointing? Let's look at the numbers. So far, 25% of the 500 stocks in the S&P 500 have reported for the fourth quarter.

Here's the stats:
62% beat estimates
19% match
19% below estimates

These numbers are in-line with long term historical trends, according to Thomson. However, they are a little bit below the trends of the last two years. Here's the stats for the past two years:

67% beat estimates
14% match
19% below estimates

However, the last two years have been extremely strong; we seem to be reverting to the mean here.

But there is some evidence that companies are not coming in with the earnings blowouts that we have seen in the past couple years. Here's one way to look at it: the percentage of companies in the S&P 500 that beat earnings estimates by 5% or more was 44% in the third quarter (according to Thomson); it's been consistently high. So far, in the fourth quarter, only 29% are beating by 5% or more.

This may change when the rest of the companies report, but if it doesn't that will be an early sign that the era oversized earnings reports may be coming to an end.