Wall Street Expects Sharper Earnings Declines


Wall Street analysts have cut their first-quarter earnings forecasts for U.S. companies and are now projecting a sharper decline, figures from Reuters Estimates showed on Monday.

Earnings for Standard & Poor's 500 companies are now expected to fall 8.1 percent in the first quarter, compared with the 5.5 percent decline projected last week.

At the beginning of the quarter, analysts projected 4.7 percent earnings growth during the period.

The worsening global credit crisis has significantly damaged the outlook for many major U.S. companies, particularly in the finance sector.

Financial companies are expected to take the hardest hit, with Reuters Estimates predicting the sector will suffer a 49 percent decline in quarterly earnings.

Consumer companies are expected to see their earnings decline 10 percent, as consumers continue to be pinched by rising food and energy costs and declining home values.

The overall projected rate combines figures for companies that have reported with estimates for companies that haven't.

The energy and technology sectors are expected to post the healthiest results for the quarter, with respective gains of 33 percent and 12 percent, according to Reuters Estimates.

The challenging environment has led most companies to issue negative outlooks for the upcoming quarter. According to Reuters Estimates, companies have reported 242 negative outlooks, compared with just 169 positive forecasts.