Q3 2023 Earnings Preview: Do You Believe in Bad Omens?

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Breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder, and a black cat crossing your path have all been seen as bad omens. Another one is Friday the 13th, which happens to be when the big banks will kick off earnings season. So, should we fear what’s in store?

The truth is, even as market prices have fallen over the past several weeks, earnings estimates for the year ahead have continued to rise. You could view this dynamic in two ways: (1) that the analysts have confidence in the companies they are following or (2) that the bar has been raised for these companies to try to beat these earnings estimates. I tend to fall in the camp that it’s easier to jump over the small bar, so things will be getting tougher. The good news is the bar for the third quarter remains low, with the S&P 500 expected to see a 0.3 percent decline in earnings year-over-year.

Let’s take a peek behind the curtain.

Scary Expectations?

When we look at the drivers of earnings in the third quarter, there are some significant differences in the sectors that are expected to see gains and losses. Despite the expectation for the third straight quarter of year-over-year earnings losses, 8 of 11 sectors in the S&P 500 are expected to see earnings growth this quarter, while 9 of 11 are expected to see revenue gains (see chart below).

S&P 500 earnings

Energy and materials are anticipated to see significant earnings declines, as commodity prices have fallen significantly from a year ago despite the rise in oil prices that has occurred more recently. If energy were excluded from the index, the S&P 500 would be expected to see 4.9 percent growth in earnings. If energy prices hold around these levels, it could be supportive of earnings going forward, although higher energy prices could weigh on other sectors.

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