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Zacks Earnings Trends Highlights: Wal-Mart, Target, Nordstrom and Macy's

Zacks Equity Research

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – August 23, 2019 – Zacks Director of Research Sheraz Mian says, “Total earnings for the 477 S&P 500 members that have reported Q2 results already are up +0.5% on +4.7% higher revenues, with 75.9% beating EPS estimates and 57.4% beating revenue estimates.”

Q2 Earnings Season Scorecard

Note: The following is an excerpt from this week’s Earnings Trends report. You can access the full report that contains detailed historical actual and estimates for the current and following periods, please click here>>>

Here are the key points:

  • The Q2 earnings season is effectively over, with results from less than 5% of S&P 500 members still awaited, mostly from the Retail sector. Results from the big-box retailers have been strong, though the department stores and specialty operators continued to struggle despite a still-healthy consumer spending environment. 
  • Total earnings for the 477 S&P 500 members that have reported Q2 results already are up +0.5% on +4.7% higher revenues, with 75.9% beating EPS estimates and 57.4% beating revenue estimates.
  • Q2 results have largely met expectations, with earnings growth on the weak side and positive EPS beats about in-line with historical trends. Revenue growth has been a lot better compared to earnings, but fewer companies are beating top-line estimates.
  • For the Retail sector, we now have Q2 results from 78.9% of the retailers in the index. Total earnings for these companies are up +3.6% on +8.3% higher revenues, with 66.7% beating EPS estimates and only 46.7% beating revenue estimates.
  • For the Technology sector, we now have Q2 results from 94.2% of the sector’s market cap in the index. Total earnings for these Tech companies are down -6.3% on +4.5% higher revenues, with 83.3% beating EPS estimates and 70% beating revenue estimates.
  • For the Finance sector (all results are in), total earnings are up +4.4% on +8.2% higher revenues, with 77.6% beating EPS estimates and 67.3% beating revenue estimates. The most notable part of Finance’s outperformance has been the favorable momentum on the revenue front.
  • Estimates for the current period (2019 Q3) have been steadily coming down, with total earnings for the period now expected to be down -4.3% on +4.3% higher revenues.
  • For the small-cap S&P 600 index, we now have Q2 results from 551 index members or 91.7% of the index’s total membership. Total earnings for these 551 companies are down -10.1% from the same period last year on +2.2% higher revenues, with 60.8% beating EPS estimates and 58.8% beating revenue estimates.
  • Earnings growth for the small-cap index is even weaker when looked at on an ex-Finance basis. The Finance sector, which accounts for almost one-third of the S&P 600 index total market capitalization, had +15.9% higher earnings in Q2 on +4.6% growth in revenues. Excluding Finance, Q2 earnings growth drops to a decline of -20.4% (-10.1% as a whole). 
  • Looking at the quarter as a whole for the small-cap index, total Q2 earnings are expected to be -12.2% below the year-earlier level on +3.5% higher revenues. Excluding the Finance sector, Q2 earnings decline would be -21.4%. 
  • For full-year 2019, total earnings for the S&P 500 index are now in negative territory, down -0.4% on +2.6% higher revenues. This would follow the +23.1% earnings growth on +9.2% higher revenues in 2018. Strong growth is expected to resume in 2020, with earnings expected to be up +10.2% that year.
  • The implied ‘EPS’ for the index, calculated using current 2019 P/E of 18.1X and index close, as of August 21st, is $161.91. Using the same methodology, the index ‘EPS’ works out to $178.44 for 2020 (P/E of 16.4X). The multiples for 2019 and 2020 have been calculated using the index’s total market cap and aggregate bottom-up earnings for each year.

Wal-Mart WMT, Target TGT and few other strong Retail sector results notwithstanding, overall Q2 performance from the sector has been mixed, particularly from the department store space. The market’s positive reaction to the Nordstrom JWN report was more a function of low expectations, particularly following the Macy’s M disappointment, than all-around strength. 

We now have Q2 results from 30 of the 38 retailers in the S&P 500 companies. Total earnings for these 30 retailers are up +3.6% from the same period last year on +8.3% higher revenues, with 66.7% beating EPS estimates and 46.7% beating revenue estimates.

Please note that the Zacks Retail sector also includes online vendors and restaurant operators, in addition to the traditional brick-and-mortar operators.

As you can see here, not only does the sector’s aggregate earnings growth picture compare unfavorably to what we have been seeing from the group in other recent periods, but the proportion of these retailers beating EPS and revenue estimates is also notably below other recent periods. Revenue growth has been strong, suggesting that the sector’s problems are more because of margin squeeze than top-line growth. 

Q2 Earnings Season Scorecard (as of August 22nd, 2019)

We now have Q2 results from 477 S&P 500 members that combined account for 97.4% of the index’s total market capitalization. Total earnings for these 477 index members are up +0.5% from the same period last year on +4.7% higher revenues, with 75.9% beating EPS estimates and 57.4% beating revenue estimates. 

The earnings and revenue growth for these 477 index members is modestly above what we saw from this same sample of companies in the preceding period, but the growth pace is materially below what we had seen in earlier periods.

Positive EPS surprises are about in-line with historical trends, while revenue beats percentages are below historical levels. It is reasonable to interpret these results as suggesting that estimates were likely reasonable ahead of the start of this reporting cycle.

All in all, we didn’t see any major negative surprises this earnings season, which can reasonably be interpreted as a net positive. 

That said, a number of major companies blamed the trade uncertainty as a reason for guiding lower. Many others that didn’t guide lower but still cited the trade and tariff backdrop as unhelpful to business conditions.

As has been the trend, estimates for the current period (2019 Q3) have come down. 

While the revisions trend is undoubtedly negative, the magnitude of decline in Q3 earnings estimates is about in-line with historical trends.

Earnings growth was flat in the March quarter and Q2 is on track to be only marginally better than that. Earnings growth is then expected to be in negative territory in Q3 (down -4.3%), with positive growth expected to resume only in last quarter of the year.

Driving this weak growth picture is tough comparisons due to the huge boost to profitability in the year-earlier period. The chart below puts earnings growth expectations for full-year 2019 in the context of where growth has been in recent years and what is expected in the next two years.

The market appears to have accepted the deceleration in growth this year in the hope that growth resumes from next year onwards.

The key issue will be if expectations for next year remain stable or start coming down as we move through the remainder of the year. Analysts have not made any significant downward adjustments to their estimates in response to the ongoing trade dispute, likely in the hope that the issue will eventually get resolved. But the recent heightening of tensions and resulting pullback in benchmark treasury yields may force their hands.

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