Futures Now

The next worry for stocks: An earnings recession?

Into the futures: Earnings approach

It's been a tough start to earnings season, with Yum Brands and Adobe Systems falling sharply after reporting their disappointing numbers. And that appears to be increasing the concern of a so-called "earnings recession."

Analysts in aggregate expect earnings to fall more than 5 percent compared to third quarter of last year, according to FactSet. Following the year-over-year earnings decline in the second quarter, this would actually mark the first two consecutive quarters of falling profit since 2009, FactSet reports.

Analyst earnings expectations tend to be overly bearish, and the average company beats estimates.

But if earnings do register the second straight year-over-year drop, it would represent a so-called "earning recession"—a parallel to a regular recession, which is marked by two straight quarters of negative GDP growth.

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Before investors head for the bunker, they should note well the deleterious effect of the energy sector on overall numbers. Energy earnings are expected to plummet 65 percent versus the third quarter of last year, due to the sharp decline in oil prices.

According to RBC Capital Markets, expectations that exclude the energy sector are for earnings growth of 2.8 percent.

"Ex-energy trends appear more robust," RBC's equity strategy team writes, perhaps understating the market's growing worries.

Yet the expected weakness extends well beyond energy. Actually, six of the ten sectors are expected to log earnings shrinkage, per FactSet.

Just two sectors, telecom and consumer discretionary, with expected growth of 18 percent and 10 percent respectively, are expected to report earnings worth writing home about.

Revenue, too, is expected to sink in the quarter. And with U.S. growth in focus, that could actually be the larger concern if it transpires.

Earnings season kicks into high gear next week, when giants including Johnson & Johnson, Intel, JPMorgan Chase, Netflix and GE are set to report.

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg.

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