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Q1 earnings season preview – more growth ahead to support US markets

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Earnings season begins in April, and is expected to see a third consecutive quarter of growth in earnings, helping to support the S&P 500 at record highs.

ChartsSource: Bloomberg

Written by: Chris Beauchamp | Chief Market Analyst, London
Publication date: 

For the first quarter (Q1) of 2024, S&P 500 companies are expected to report earnings growth of 3.4% year-over-year and revenue growth of 3.6%. This marks the third consecutive quarter that the index is projected to report year-over-year earnings growth.

While the overall earnings growth forecast is positive, analysts have lowered their Q1 earnings estimates by 2.6% since December 31st. This downward revision is below the historical average cut to estimates, which ranges from 3.4% over the last 10 years to 3.9% over the past 20 years.

However, companies themselves have been more pessimistic in their earnings outlooks. At this point, 70% of the S&P 500 companies that have issued Q1 earnings guidance provided negative guidance, which is above the 5-year and 10-year averages.

Strength in IT & consumer discretionary, weakness in energy

Breaking it down by sectors, six of the eleven sectors are expected to report year-over-year earnings growth in Q1, led by the Utilities, Information Technology, Communication Services, and Consumer Discretionary sectors.

On the other hand, four sectors are predicted to report a year-over-year decline in earnings, with the Energy and Materials sectors seeing the largest declines at -27.1% and -23.4% respectively. The Industrials sector is expected to report flat earnings growth of 0%.

Looking further ahead, analysts are forecasting earnings growth of 9.3% for Q2 2024, 8.4% for Q3 2024, and a robust 17.4% for Q4 2024.

Valuation remains above average

The forward 12-month price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio for the S&P 500 currently stands at 20.9, which is above the 5-year average of 19.0 and the 10-year average of 17.7. This elevated valuation ratio reflects the strong price performance of the index.

Despite historically overestimating gains, industry analysts are projecting the S&P 500 price will increase by 7.0% over the next 12 months based on their target prices for individual stocks. This projected increase is supported by the positive earnings growth forecasts for the coming quarters.



This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients. See full non-independent research disclaimer and quarterly summary.

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