Lower revenue projections pressure earnings and margins

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It is still early in the third quarter earnings season, but traders are already focused on the quarter that matters most: the fourth quarter.

For those 58 or so companies that have reported third quarter earnings by Friday, analysts have lowered fourth quarter earnings an average of 3 percent, according to Earnings Scout.

Fourth quarter earnings are continuing to come down and are now negative.

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fourth quarter earnings estimates (source: Factset)

  • September 30: up 0.2%
  • Today: down 1.5%

It's typical for earnings estimates to be revised downward in the middle of a quarter, but even accounting for this the decline is more aggressive than usual.

That means what analysts are hearing — either in the form of direct guidance or by body language — is not encouraging them.