US Markets

Just ask Goldman and P&G: Wall Street doesn't care about your good earnings right now

Key Points
  • Goldman Sachs reported first-quarter results that handily beat on both the top and bottom lines, but its stock fell 1.6 percent after the financial report.
  • Consumer giant Procter & Gamble may have faced a similar issue after it reported strong revenues on Thursday.
  • "It's not the earnings beat, look at the revisions, it's the direction of the estimates that move prices," Nick Raich of The Earnings Scout said.
Bar has been raised for financials says portfolio manager

Companies have been crushing earnings so far this quarter, but a strange trend is developing: Those that beat expectations are seeing their stock prices fall.

Since the earnings season kicked off last week, shares have returned, on average, a loss of 0.12 percent on the trading day immediately after companies posted their quarterly results, according to data from Bespoke Investment Group. Breaking that number down, the average opening gap following an earnings release is a pop of 0.29 percent, following by an open-to-close decline of 0.38 percent.

Historically, the average opening gap is a 0.1 percent move upward followed by an average full-day gain of 0.04 percent.

The gloomy open-to-close figures come despite the fact that 80 percent of companies that had reported as of Friday morning posted better-than-expected earnings.

Goldman Sachs, for example, reported first-quarter results on Tuesday that handily beat on both the top and bottom line forecasts, thanks to a strong performance in its trading division. A return of market volatility appeared to give Goldman's traders an edge, with the department posting its highest equities trading revenue in three years.

Ultimately, revenue of more than $10 billion and earnings per share of $6.95 blew past Wall Street's projections of $8.7 billion and $5.58, respectively.

But despite the chart-topping beat, shares of Goldman Sachs fell the same day. After opening more than 1.6 percent above its prior close, shares gradually seesawed in the other direction, finishing the day down more than 1.6 percent.

Trying to explain the confusing behavior, Nick Raich, who tracks earnings estimates at The Earnings Scout, told CNBC that it likely has less to do with earnings surprises and more to do with guidance revisions.

"Take a look at the companies that have raised guidance. It's all about the rate of change on the estimates … the market is very smart about picking up on weakening trends," Raich said.

Companies that have raised their second-quarter estimates while reporting earnings are beating the market by roughly 500 basis points, Raich explained. Those that have lowered estimates, however, are underperforming by about 400 basis points.

Raich's analysis may help explain prices movements like those exhibited by Goldman.

During the bank's investor call after the earnings release, Chief Financial Officer Martin Chavez told investors something they may not have liked: Goldman will not make share repurchases in the second quarter.

Though the bank's first-quarter numbers were solid, this unexpected forward-looking statement from the CFO could have had a dampening effect on the stock's price.

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Consumer giant Procter & Gamble may have faced a similar issue after it reported its finances on Thursday.

With net sales growing 4.3 percent, to $16.28 billion, the company bested analyst forecasts of $16.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters. However, concerns over the company's long-term organic growth appeared to weigh on investor sentiment.

Despite a rise in organic sales, P&G also drew a downgrade from Bank of America on Friday.

"PG is taking steps to improve its growth profile, including [Thursday's] deal to acquire Merck Consumer Health, and there are pockets of growth like Beauty," the BofAML analysts said, "but not meaningful enough in total against the challenges."

The stock fell more than 4 percent Thursday and extended its losses with a 0.7 percent fall Friday.

"The bar has been set very high for 2018. For seven years, we've seen estimates get cut after reporting results," Raich added. "It's not the earnings beat, look at the revisions, it's the direction of the estimates that moves prices."

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Correction: Procter & Gamble's organic sales rose. An earlier version misstated the direction.