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Kass: The Earnings Season Racket

This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on Oct. 21 at 8:45 a.m. EDT.

While it has been widely advertised by chest-thumping bulls in the media that at least two-thirds of the companies that have reported third-quarter earnings have beaten forecasts, there was less than meets the eye to third-quarter profits as in many cases the "beats" were on lowered estimates.

What is often being ignored is how orchestrated earnings season has become, not only that the beats are from lowered and depressed guidance but that, in many cases, there have been high-profile forward-quarter guide downs.

The reality is that companies almost always beat consensus earnings forecasts, even during rough economic periods. Investor relations departments and Wall Street analysts are very good at getting numbers down to the right level before reports are released. As a result, the actual results vis-a-vis expectations or consensus do not vary materially from historical experiences, in good times and even in bad times.

Indeed, the concept of beating is one of the single-most overhyped statistics extant given the degree to which estimates move around prior to reports. Remember that even in the most recent downturn, there were few companies pre-announcing negatively.

What should be more interesting to investors is the composition of the guidance (revenue vs. earnings, higher vs. lower). Also, by category/sector and end market, is the company benefiting from restocking, or is the company closer to consumption and end-market demand?
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