BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Enough companies have reported third-quarter earnings to reveal the state of U.S. business. Of the S&P 500's constituents, 284 have released financial results, with 77% of those beating Wall Street's estimates.
Still, analysts have been cutting earnings-per-share estimates. The bottom-up EPS estimate for S&P 500 companies for the fourth quarter now stands at $25.03, down 3% from Sept. 30.
The decline "reflects the sharpest drop in earnings expectations for the first month of a quarter since the second quarter 2009, when earnings estimates fell 7% during the month of April 2009," says John Butters, a senior earnings analyst at FactSet Research.Investors have turned their attention to the economy and the European debt crisis. The S&P 500 is on track for its best monthly performance in 37 years after European leaders reached approval for a writedown of Greek debt and an increase to the European rescue fund. In addition, a strong reading on U.S. gross domestic product last week assuaged fears that a recession was looming. Nevertheless, the earnings docket is packed for this third peak week of reports -- 103 S&P 500 companies and two on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Consumer trends will come into the spotlight with reports from MasterCard (MA) and OpenTable (OPEN). Kraft Foods (KFT) and Pfizer (PFE) are the two Dow components with results due this week, but what they have to say can't be extrapolated across other industries, nor will they likely show different trends than counterparts that have already reported. Similarly, Clorox (CLX) probably won't give a better indication of global demand for consumer goods than what Procter & Gamble (PG) has said. And AIG (AIG), once the biggest U.S. insurer, "is more of a curiosity than it is a leading indicator," says Paul Nolte, director of investments at Dearborn Partners. One industry that will be in focus is media, with News Corp. (NWS), CBS (CBS), Comcast (CMCSA), Time Warner (TWX) and Sirius XM (SIRI) on tap. But what each says about advertising revenue, subscriber trends and the shift to digital content may not alter views of the broader economy. Several companies that recently held initial public offerings will open their books on the previous quarter, including ZipCar (ZIP), Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) and LinkedIn (LNKD).
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