Example: Yesterday, earnings for the S&P 500 were expected to be down 3.8 percent for the second quarter, according to Thomson Reuters. Today, thanks mostly to GM, earnings are expected to be down only 3.3 percent.
That is a big move. If this continues,there is a small chance that earnings could even turn positive.
One big help is that more companies are not just beating, they are beating by a larger amount than usual. Yesterday, the companies that had reported so far were on average beating their earnings estimates by 6.2 percent. Today, thanks largely to GM, they are beating by 6.7 percent.
Again, that is a big move in just a 24-hour period.
The long-term average, by the way, is 3 percent.
Why is all this important? Because the stock market is at historic highs, and to justify these kinds of valuations bulls need to see some kind of improvement in earnings, and that is the narrative so far:
Q2 S&P 500 earnings (ests.)
Q2: down 3.3%
Q3: up 1.3%
Q4: up 8.9%
Source: Thomson Reuters
Earnings going positive — especially if it gets close in second quarter — would be a huge psychological boost, the first year-over-year increase since the second quarter of 2015. So far, the positive momentum — and the lack of earnings reductions for third quarter — is working in favor of the bulls and helping to support the market.
But with only 101 companies reporting (21 percent of the S&P 500), the jury is still out.