Q4 ’17 Earnings Are Upon Us – Earnings Releases Will be Packed with Financial Info

Trying to come up with a good title for this week’s SP 500 earnings look, the above was my best attempt at trying to communicate how much info will be contained in the 4th quarter’s financial results.

Normally when a company reports financial results investors hear:

1.) Where actual results differed from consensus Street expectations

2.) Any change in longer-term guidance, and usually if there is no explicit statement about guidance, the Street assumes the current consensus is reasonable;

3.) General commentary about the state of business with particulars driven by analyst Q&A;

For Q4 ’17, and with tax reform, investors will hear:

1.) Q4 ’17 financial results

2.) Managements best estimate about what full-year 2018 (otherwise known as full-year ’18 guidance) will look like in terms of numbers and growth;

3.) Starting this week with the big banks on Friday, investors will additionally hear about cash repatriation and how that will impact share repurchases (definite EPS impact) and potentially dividends and longer-term investment (i.e.capex). Some companies undoubtedly might choose to defer full disclosure for analyst meetings, but anything material, according to Reg FD, will usually get released with earnings and then the detail discussed in the conference calls.

Share repurchases or increased share repurchase programs will have an immediate EPS impact on forward estimates while dividend changes, special dividends, and changes to “capex” will show up on the Statement of Cash Flow. Companies that disclose changes to long-term capex (if they choose to do that) will influence forward free-cash-flow estimates and thus discounted cash-flow (DCF) valuations.

Here is what could make Q4 ’17 earnings releases interesting: Morningstar has been adjusting their “fair value” or “intrinsic value” stock estimates to reflect a lower corporate tax rate for many of the companies it follows, and has been doing so since late November, early December, ’17. I like Morningstar research: they do their homework, disclose their assumptions, take a longer-term view of valuation and tend to not get swayed by quarter-to-quarter issues.

The point being, I wonder how much of “tax reform” and cash repatriation is in the current estimates, and how much will be new to analysts in terms of management commentary.

The other point being is the degree of adjustments to stock valuation models still to be seen, by Street analysts, with the information heard on the 4th quarter calls.

Thomson Reuters data (by the numbers, 1/5/18): 

  • Fwd 4-qtr est: $147.94 versus last week’s $143.34
  • P.E ratio: 18.5x
  • PEG ratio: 1.6x
  • SP 500 earnings yield: 5.39%
  • Year-over-year growth of the forward estimate: 11.46%, versus last week’s 11.49%

Observant readers will note the “bump” or increase in the forward 4-quarter estimate, which is typical with the first week of every quarter. At nearly $148 per share, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think we could easily see $150 in SP 500 in EPS in 2018, and possibly much higher.

According to Thomson Reuters, here is the pattern of “expected” 2018 SP 500 EPS growth:

  • 1/5/18: 12.9%
  • 1/1/18: 12%
  • 10/1/17: 11.1%

For the three months from October 1 ’17 to 1/1/18, the SP 500 earnings estimate rose 1% in expected growth, and then 1% again in just the first week of the new year.

What’s unusual about this pattern is that the trend is typically negative in terms of growth rate revisions until earnings start and then the expected growth rate turns sharply positive.

Even Factset noted in their weekly piece on Friday, January 5th, 2018, that Q4 ’17 SP 500 earnings estimates gave seen “the smallest cuts to EPS estimates since 2010”.

The price action in the SP 500 and the Nasdaq this week was very bullish: investor sentiment is now fully bullish, even Ralph Acompora, a long-time widely-followed technical analyst noted in a tweet that he “was so bullish, he needed to sit down.”

This earnings season is going to be really interesting.

Thanks for reading,,,




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