Previewing the Q1 Earnings Season

We are still a couple of weeks away from the end of the March quarter, but the Q1 earnings season has gotten underway already. The four S&P 500 members that have reported results like Oracle (ORCL), Adobe Systems (ADBE) and others have come out with their February fiscal quarter results, which form part of our Q1 earnings tally. We have another 8 index members reporting results this week, including bellwethers like FedEx (FDX), Nike (NKE), and Accenture (ACN) and others.The Oracle and Adobe reports have been very strong, with both companies showing plenty of momentum in their businesses, which likely helps frame earnings expectations for the Tech sector. This week’s report from Accenture should shed further light on this key sector, the strongest stock price performer in the year-to-date period.  These early reports notwithstanding, the reporting cycle doesn’t take the spotlight till about mid-April, as the chart below of reporting calendar for the S&P 500 index clearly shows.

This Week’s Key ReportsFedEx (FDX) – FedEx reports after the market’s close on Tuesday, March 21st, with the company expected to earn $2.65 per share on $14.98 billion in revenues, up +5.7% and +18% from the year-earlier level, respectively. The company missed expectations in the last earnings report on December 20th, which has weighed on the stock since then. The stock is down -2% since the last earnings report, underperforming the Zacks Transportation sector (up +1.3%) and the S&P 500 (up +4.8%). While FedEx’s surprise history has not been consistent, the stock always responds to the earnings report in a big way.Nike (NKE) – Nike reports the same day as FedEx after the market’s close on Tuesday, March 21st. The company is expected to earn $0.52 per share on $8.45 billion in revenues, down -4.2% on +5.2% higher revenues from the year-earlier period, respectively. The stock responded positively to the last earnings report on December 20th, but has been a laggard over the past year (down -8.9%) relative to the Consumer Discretionary sector (up +13.8%) and the S&P 500 index (+16%). Competitive challenges from the likes of Under Armour and Adidas and the impact of problems in the retail chain on the company’s inventory situation have been the key issues in the Nike story. We should keep in mind, however, that while the Nike stock has been a laggard over the past year, Under Armour has been an even been bigger laggard.  Accenture (ACN) – Accenture, the tech consulting firm, reports results before the market’s open on Thursday, March 23rd. The company is expected to earn $1.30 per share on $8.34 billion in revenues, down -3% on +5% higher revenues from the year-earlier period, respectively. The stock responds strongly to the earnings report – it was down in response to the last earnings report on December 21st but has done better than the S&P 500 index since the last earnings report. The key significance of the Accenture report is management’s commentary about technology spending trend, which offers read-throughs for IBM (IBM) and broader Technology space.ConAgra (CAG), General Mills (GIS) and Micron Technology (MU) are some of the other notable reports this week.Expectations for Q1Total Q1 earnings are expected to be up +6.5% from the same period last year on +6.4% higher revenues. This would follow +7.3% earnings growth in 2016 Q4 on +4.7%, the highest growth pace in all most two years.Estimates for Q1 came down as the quarter unfolded, with the current +6.5% growth down from +10.4% at the end of December. The chart below shows how Q1 earnings growth expectations have evolved over the last three months.

Please note that while Q1 estimates have followed well traversed path that we have been seeing consistently over the last few years, the magnitude of negative revisions compares favorably to other periods, particularly in the first half of last year and all of 2015. In other words, Q1 estimates have come down, but they haven’t come down by as much.The table below shows the summary picture for Q1, contrasted with what was actually achieved in Q4.

Gelogis

Please note that the Q1 earnings season would follow the strong showing on the earnings front in the preceding reporting cycle. Not only did 2016 Q4 growth reach the highest in two years, but total earnings for the quarter also reached a new quarterly record. The strong Q4 performance came after the first positive earnings growth in 2016 Q3, having declined in each of the preceding 5 quarters, as the chart below of year-over-year earnings growth for the S&P 500 index shows.

Expectations Beyond Q1The chart below shows the Q1 earnings growth contrasted with what is expected in the following three quarters and actual results in the preceding 5 quarters. As you can see in the chart below, the growth pace is expected to ramp up in 2017.

The market is reflecting this improved earnings backdrop as the chart below of the S&P 500 relative to forward 12-month Zacks Consensus estimates shows.

Please note that the earnings backdrop has not changed in any meaningful way since the November elections, notwithstanding the market’s strong gains since then. The only exception to this comment is the Finance sector whose earnings outlook has improved as a result of the uptrend in interest rates since November 8th. It is reasonable to expect that earnings estimates will move favorably once the new administration’s growth-friendly policies get enacted. For now, however, estimates are following the long-established trend of coming down.  

Zacks' Top Investment Ideas for Long-Term ProfitHow would you like to see specific recommendations to help you pick today’s most promising long-term stocks? Starting now, you can look inside our portfolios featuring stocks under $10, income stocks, value investments and more. These picks, which have double and triple-digit profit potential, are rarely available to the public. But you can see them now. Click here >>Note: Sheraz Mian heads the Zacks Equity Research department and is a well-regarded expert of aggregate earnings. He is frequently quoted in the print and electronic media and publishes the weekly Earnings Trends and Earnings Preview reports. If you want an email notification each time Sheraz publishes a new article, please click here>>>Here is a list of the 77 companies including 8 S&P 500 members reporting this week.

Company Ticker Current Qtr Year-Ago Qtr Last EPS Surprise % Report Day Time ASURE SOFTWAREASUR0.1-0.0842.86%MondayBTODESTINATION XLDXLG0-0.0216.67%MondayBTOJAMBA INCJMBA-0.04-0.28-20.00%MondayBTOMOVADO GRP INCMOV0.180.428.17%MondayBTOSHENANDOAH TELESHEN-0.210.24-28.57%MondayBTOLENNAR CORP -ALEN0.560.635.51%TuesdayBTOGENL MILLSGIS0.710.65-3.41%TuesdayBTOFRANCESCAS HLDGFRAN0.370.3644.44%TuesdayBTOCOCA-COLA EU PTCCE0.460.532.78%TuesdayBTONEOGEN CORPNEOG0.270.223.57%TuesdayBTOCHEETAH MBL-ADRCMCMN/A0.1-66.67%TuesdayBTOFIFTH STREET AMFSAM0.190.1833.33%TuesdayBTOCANADIAN SOLARCSIQ0.221.050.00%TuesdayBTONIKE INC-BNKE0.520.5516.28%TuesdayAMCFEDEX CORPFDX2.652.51-3.78%TuesdayAMCHEALTHEQUITYHQY0.050.0511.11%TuesdayAMCDULUTH HOLDINGSDLTH0.330.3757.14%TuesdayAMCSTEELCASE INCSCS0.230.229.68%TuesdayAMCAAR CORPAIR0.380.263.57%TuesdayAMCIMPRIMIS PHARMAIMMY-0.28-0.53N/ATuesdayAMCSPARK NETWORKSLOVN/A-0.05100.00%TuesdayAMCPARNELL PHARMAPARNF-0.08-0.45-350.00%TuesdayAMCSILVER WHEATONSLW0.170.14-13.64%TuesdayAMCATENTO SAATTO0.160.31-13.04%TuesdayAMCPETROBRAS-ADR CPBR0.18-0.2133.33%TuesdayAMCXCEL BRANDS INCXELB0.040.04-88.89%TuesdayAMCAMEC FOSTER WHLAMFWN/AN/AN/ATuesdayN/ALANDS END INCLE0.30.71-83.33%TuesdayN/AAMAYA INCAYA0.60.410.53%WednesdayBTOACUSHNET HLDGSGOLF0.05N/A-833.33%WednesdayBTOEVINE LIVE INCEVLV00.01-25.00%WednesdayBTOWINNEBAGOWGO0.450.3571.43%WednesdayBTOON TRACK INNOVOTIV0-0.03133.33%WednesdayBTOPERRY ELLIS INTPERY0.60.3543.75%WednesdayBTOQIWI PLC-ADRQIWI0.20.197.41%WednesdayBTOTENCENT HOLDINGTCEHYN/A0.13N/AWednesdayBTOTECOGEN INCTGENN/A-0.04125.00%WednesdayBTOPVH CORPPVH1.221.527.88%WednesdayAMCFRANCO NV CPFNV0.20.1525.00%WednesdayAMCASCENDIS PHARMAASND-0.61-0.54-14.29%WednesdayAMCHERMAN MILLERMLHR0.330.46-1.82%WednesdayAMCCENTENNIAL RESCDEV0.04N/AN/AWednesdayAMCTRANSATL PETROLTAT-0.01-0.62-125.00%WednesdayAMCEHI CAR SERVICEEHICN/A-0.03N/AWednesdayAMCFIVE BELOW INCFIVE0.890.7711.11%WednesdayAMCCK HUTCHISN HLDCKHUYN/AN/AN/AWednesdayN/AKINGFISHER -ADRKGFHYN/AN/AN/AWednesdayN/ACONAGRA BRANDSCAG0.450.688.89%ThursdayBTOACCENTURE PLCACN1.31.346.04%ThursdayBTOADV ACCELERATORAAAP-0.19-0.1-100.00%ThursdayBTOPIERIS PHARMACTPIRS-0.13-0.07-7.69%ThursdayBTOCOMMERCIAL METLCMC0.120.15-41.18%ThursdayBTOGALMED PHARMAGLMDN/A-0.298.11%ThursdayBTOCANCER GENETICSCGIX-0.2-0.4817.86%ThursdayBTOBIOLINE RX LTDBLRX-0.08-0.07-14.29%ThursdayBTOHANWHA Q CELLSHQCL0.050.33138.10%ThursdayBTOSCHOLASTIC CORPSCHL-0.27-0.063.65%ThursdayBTOMICRON TECHMU0.77-0.0516.67%ThursdayAMCLONESTAR RESRCSLONE-0.13N/A-512.50%ThursdayAMCCYMABAY THERAPTCBAY-0.3-0.2619.35%ThursdayAMCBASIC EGY SVCSBAS-1.1-99.996.94%ThursdayAMCOXFORD INDS INCOXM0.911.0922.22%ThursdayAMCSHOE CARNIVALSCVL0.030.210.00%ThursdayAMCUPLAND SOFTWAREUPLD-0.12-0.02141.18%ThursdayAMCJAGGED PEAK EGYJAG0.01N/AN/AThursdayAMCVERASTEM INCVSTMN/A-0.3212.50%ThursdayAMCNOVABAY PHARMACNBY-0.12-1.26N/AThursdayAMCNEOVASC INCNVCNN/A-0.11-100.00%ThursdayAMCKB HOMEKBH0.150.148.11%ThursdayAMCGAMESTOP CORPGME2.292.44.26%ThursdayAMCSPORTSMANS WRHSSPWH0.270.270.00%ThursdayAMCCELYAD-ADRCYADN/AN/AN/AThursdayN/AKLONDEX MINESKLDXN/A0.0533.33%ThursdayN/ASANCHEZ PRODUCTSPP-1.17-19.95N/AFridayBTOFINISH LINE-CLAFINL0.710.83-33.33%FridayBTOREX AMERICAN RSREXN/A0.5413.33%FridayBTOSMITHS GRP PLCSMGZYN/AN/AN/AFridayN/AWant the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Oracle Corporation (ORCL): Free Stock Analysis Report Nike, Inc. (NKE): Free Stock Analysis Report Micron Technology, Inc. (MU): Free Stock Analysis Report General Mills, Inc. (GIS): Free Stock Analysis Report FedEx Corporation (FDX): Free Stock Analysis Report ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG): Free Stock Analysis Report Adobe Systems Incorporated (ADBE): Free Stock Analysis Report Accenture PLC (ACN): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. 

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