Futures Now

Earnings in this industry are defying the third quarter trend

Into the futures: Big earnings week

Third-quarter earnings season has begun, and the numbers do not look great. While 71 percent of the first 58 S&P 500 companies to report have beaten analysts' estimates, overall earnings are still expected to slide 3.9 percent versus the third quarter of 2014, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Those figures "blend" reported results with analysts' expectations of earnings yet to be released. Meanwhile, revenues are set to decline 3.7 percent.

But amid the apparent weakness, three specific industries within the S&P 500 Index are expected to see their earnings rise by about 50 percent year-over-year: automobiles, airlines, and construction materials.

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The 'sweet spot' for earnings

These S&P 500 industries are small groups, so only a few stocks are captured by this type of look at the market. However, their commonalities are striking.

The construction materials group consists of just two names, Martin Marietta Materials and Vulcan Materials. Both of these names have rallied powerfully this year, thanks to a strong housing market and a decrease in input costs thank to plunging commodity prices.

The four airline companies in the S&P have performed admirably over the past year thanks to similar factors: A consumer that's flying more, and lower expenses due to oil's plunge.

Meanwhile, the auto companies are helped by, again, a strengthening consumer, and a lower cost to drive thanks to falling gas prices. In addition, low interest rates act as a powerful tailwind for major consumer purchases like cars and houses, as it makes financing them more reasonable.

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"Those are the sectors not tied to commodities, and they also benefit from low rates. That's the sweet spot right now," commented Eddy Elfenbein, editor of the "Crossing Wall Street" blog.

And perhaps in the spirit of finding a phoenix amid the ashes, Elfenbein says that the fact that these companies are making it happen is actually good news.

"All in all, this bodes well for the economy, since these are the early cyclicals," Elfenbein told CNBC in an email, adding: "Yes, six years after the recession ended, the early cyclicals are moving."

The hope, of course, is that strength in these consumer-reliant sectors points to positive news ahead for the economy and stocks alike, as the "cycle" blooms.

Still, with overall earnings and sales figures presenting dire news overall, investors may or may not choose to hone in on the few choice bright spots.

—By CNBC's Alex Rosenberg.

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