Thanks to a dramatically lowered bar, about 74 percent have beaten Wall Street bottom-line expectations this season, while 55 percent have topped sales estimates. Companies issuing negative guidance have doubled the total issuing positive guidance, with the 67 percent negative guidance level actually below the historical average of 73 percent.
Second-quarter earnings also are expected to be negative, with the current estimate for a 4.4 percent drop.
However, current predictions are for the direction to shift in the second half. Projections for the final two quarters currently are for respective gains of 1.6 percent and 7.5 percent, according to FactSet. The revenue picture is for a 1 percent decline in the second quarter followed by gains of 1.8 percent and 4.3 percent.
On a sector basis, materials and staples actually have seen more positive than negative revisions, while analysts remain most pessimistic about the future of energy, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. For previous quarters, Wall Street had been hanging onto the theme that the earnings slump was just about the collapse in oil prices, but that argument no longer holds. Even excluding energy from the aggregate picture, S&P 500 earnings declined 2.4 percent in the first quarter.
Overall, BofAML's three-month tracker for earnings revisions increased to 0.76 from 0.53, with a reading of 1 indicating growth. The one-month tracker, a more volatile measure, increased to 1.03 from 0.77, which is the first time above 1, or growth, since August.