SP 500 Earnings: “Forward 4-Quarter Estimate” Growth Rate Turns Positive; 2016 Energy Estimates Still Falling

For many weeks of the quarter, SP 500 earnings discussions are bland and droll: outside of the weekly number updates, there is often little remarkable or out of the ordinary that is interesting.

This week however, the “Forward 4-quarter SP 500 estimate” growth rate turned positive for the first time since April, 2015.

That is a big change. The critical question is, “Will it Last ?”

What is even more fascinating to me is that the 2016 estimated Energy sector growth estimates are still declining, even as the growth rate of the SP 500 forward estimate turns positive:

(First column is the y/y growth rate of the SP 500 forward 4-quarter estimate. The 2nd column is the expected 2016 Energy sector earnings growth rate.)

12/24/15: +0.42%, -10%

12/18/15: -0.11%, -8.1%

12/11/15: -0.71%, -2.3%

12/4/15: -1.42%, -0.5%

11/27/15: -1.89%, -0.6%

11/20/15: -2.07%, +0.9%

11/13/15: -2.01%, +0.9%

11/6/15: -1.93%, +0.6%

10/30/15: -2.09%, +2.6%

10/23/15: -1.88%, +2.7%

10/16/15: -2.68%, +5.3%

10/9/15: -2.65%, +7.6%

10/2/15: -5.68%, +9.2%

What is interesting is that Consumer Discretionary is the only sector – in terms of 2016 estimated sector earnings growth – that is higher today, than on October 1 ’15.

On October 1 ’15, “expected” 2016 Consumer Discretionary earnings growth was projected to be 16%. Today, that expected growth rate is 16.6%. You would naturally have to think so much of the “Cons Disc” return in 2015 is Amazon (AMZN) since if we excluded Amazon’s stock from the Consumer Discretionary sector for 2015 Y-T-D, the return of the sector sinks to low single digits, versus the 9% Y-T-D return for the XLY.

However it could also be auto’s or housing in 2016, both of which did little this year in terms of performance.

The “forward 4-quarter growth rate estimate for the SP 500” turning positive is another positive for 2016. Frankly though I expected it to happen earlier in the quarter, given that Energy estimates started to fall off the table in Q4 ’14. In other words, we’ve been lapping easier comp’s for both Energy and the US dollar for a few weeks now.

Either way, “better late than never”.

There is one caveat to the above data: the “forward 4-quarter estimate” is for Q4 ’15, through Q3 ’16. We don’t get the Q1 ’16 through Q4 ’16 estimate until Jan 1 ’16.

SP 500 weekly earnings data by the numbers (Source: Thomson Reuters): 

  • 496 of the SP 500 companies have reported Q3 ’15.
  • The forward 4-quarter estimate as of December 24, ’15 was $122.51 versus last week’s $122.99.
  • The p.e ratio on this week’s forward estimate was 17(x).
  • The PEG ratio has finally turned positive at 40(x), which has been distorted for months – the true PEG is probably closer to 2.5(x) – 3(x) using core SP 500 earnings growth.
  • The SP 500 earnings yield this week was 5.93%, versus last week’s 6.13%.
  • As detailed above, the y/y growth rate of the SP 500 forward estimate turned positive this week for the first time in 36 weeks. My expectation is that it will stay positive for a while.

Analysis / conclusion: The forward 4-quarter growth rate turning positive as Energy estimates continue to slide for 2016 is a positive, but it isn’t foolproof. I learned that lesson in 2008. We’ll be out with more sector info during the quiet holiday trading time the next week. The Santa Claus rally is here. Attention will turn to the first full trading week of January and the predictive ability to fulfill the old investing max’m, “As January goes, so goes the market”.

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