VettaFi Voices On: Third-Quarter Earnings Season

Good morning, VettaFi Voices! Third-quarter earnings announcements have almost come and gone, with yesterday being the last big burst of companies. Some key firms have yet to announce, like Nvidia and Walmart, but everything I’m seeing says it surpassed expectations. Last quarter, Todd Rosenbluth said that the strength of earnings mainly came from cost cutting rather than revenue growth. I’m asking the wider team: Have things changed? What stood out to you? Where is the real strength in this go-round of earnings?

An Earnings Season Roundup

Todd Rosenbluth, VettaFi head of research: FactSet published a commentary last week. For Q3 2023 (with 81% of S&P 500 companies reporting actual results), 82% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive EPS surprise, and 62% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive revenue surprise.

For Q3 2023, the blended (year-over-year) earnings growth rate for the S&P 500 is 3.7%. If 3.7% is the actual growth rate, it will mark the first quarter of year-over-year earnings growth reported by the index since Q3 2022. But they also point out that earnings have not been a driver of stock prices this time around.

Companies that beat earnings rose modestly the next couple of days. But companies like Tesla that missed expectations got crushed. On October 18, the company reported actual (non-GAAP) EPS of $0.66 for Q3, which was below the mean (non-GAAP) EPS estimate of $0.70. From October 16 to October 20, the stock price for Tesla decreased by 16.5%.

Eight of the 11 S&P 500 sectors are reporting year-over-year earnings growth, led by the communication services, consumer discretionary, and financials sectors. The largest sector ETFs here are the Communication Services Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLC), the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY), and the Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLF).

The sectors are reporting a year-over-year decline in earnings are energy, healthcare, and materials. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) tracks the S&P 500 Energy sector. VettaFi’s Head of Energy Research Stacey Morris can speak to this topic better than me. MLP securities are found in the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) but are not part of the S&P 500.