Commodity Prices vs. Corporate Earnings

Will collapsing commodity prices clobber U.S. earnings? In six out of seven cases since 1970, commodity crashes exceeding 20% year-over-year have corresponded with earnings contractions exceeding 10% year-over-year. The lone exception occurred in 1998 when earnings decelerated to zero growth without actually contracting.

Given this track record, a cautious outlook toward second-half earnings is advised. While it’s true that correlation is not causation, history has a funny way or repeating. The current consensus for flat calendar-year operating results seems overly optimistic in the present environment.

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