The End of the Streak

Thursday, April 05, 2007 | 12:14 PM

No, not Bill Miller's streak.

As we mentioned back in February, the end of 18 consecutive quarters of double digit year over year gains in the S&P500 earnings has arrived. Not that double digits are magically meaningful -- growth still exists, its just at decreased levels, and decelerating.

Indeed, the overall profit picture is likely to continue worsening. This has significant economic and  market implications (especially to those followers of the Fed Model).

With the consumer running out of financing options, and businesses too skittish to spend aggressively, its not too difficult to see how this can keep trending lower. 

Here's the statement on Q4 2006 operating earnings via Standard & Poor’s:

"Fourth quarter 2006 operating earnings for the S&P 500 increased 8.9% over the fourth quarter 2005, marking the first time that the index has failed to post double-digit earnings growth since the first quarter of 2002, eighteen quarters ago.

Fourth quarter operating earnings were finalized at $21.99 per share, compared to $20.19 in the fourth quarter of 2005.  For the year, the index posted record earnings of $87.72 versus $76.45 for 2005, or a 14.7% gain compared to a 13.0% gain in 2005. 

According to Standard & Poor’s, sector performance varied significantly.  Materials surged 47% for the quarter, partially due to a depressed Q4 2005 comparison, and Energy, with lower oil prices and harder compressions to their Q4 2005 earnings, reported a 5.8% decline.  For the year, all ten sectors were positive with seven reporting double-digit gains.  Information Technology, whose earnings were down in both the second (-2.66%) and fourth quarter (-2.80%), reported a 1.3% gain for the year.

BusinessWeek got melancholy with the news:

"Here's a funeral oration that may bring a small tear to the eye of Wall Street pro and individual investor alike. "Today we lay to rest our friend Mr. Double Digit. He was a steadfast ally of investors for a number of years, and perhaps it can be said that we took him for granted as he continued his winning ways. True, he enjoyed robust health up to the very end of his life. But alas, today he goes to his final rest after 18 consecutive quarters of reliably exceeding that magical 10% figure we seem to fixate on. He'll always hold two places in our hearts."

Here's the S&P data for 2006 versus 2005:


Their forecasts for 2007 expects year over year data to come in as follows:

Q1. . . . .    Q2. . . . .    Q3 . . . . .  Q4 . . . .   2007
4.96%. . . . 5.80%. . .  .2.90% . . .14.64% . . . 7.06%


S&P 500 Indices
Monthly and Annual returns S&P 500 Earnings and Estimates

R.I.P., Double-Digit Earnings Growth
Businessweek, April 3, 2007, 4:30PM EST

Thursday, April 05, 2007 | 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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Barry, for the purposes of calculating a P/E ratio for the S&P 500 index, is it best to use operating earnings (bottom up), or is there some other figure reported by S&P that might be better? I like to access the link below for S&P's figures.

Posted by: Adam | Apr 5, 2007 12:25:21 PM

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