NEW YORK (
) -- Those looking to second-quarter reporting season to bring the U.S. equity market back to the highs of the year despite softening economic data and Europe's debt crisis should be careful about getting their hopes up.
Like clockwork, trepidation about earnings season is starting to boil up just ahead of the first rash of reports that matter, i.e. the big banks like
, which are both due on Friday.
UBS is predicting the
should be able to deliver a "modest" 2% beat overall, a performance that's reflected in its top-down estimate for a profit per share of $25.75 but the firm notes that the consensus view is indicative of "slower growth than we've experienced over the past three years."
Furthering the point, the four trends that UBS highlighted ahead of the quarter aren't exactly comforting.
"As we look at incoming data, four key trends appear most pronounced: (1) weaker growth and surprises; (2) a less favorable response to announcements by investors and analysts; (3) a negative impact from global exposure; and (4) a more challenging environment for Financials," the firm said, noting that consensus expectations have come down by 3.7% over the past seven weeks
The most worrisome of these trends could be the switch seen in global exposure, which has been a plus for many U.S. companies since the financial crisis. Already this quarter, a number of prominent names --
Procter & Gamble
among them -- have disclosed weakness in business abroad.
Non-U.S. (nominal) economic growth is expected to lag U.S. GDP in 2Q," UBS noted. "This is especially troubling for U.S. companies that have depended on faster growth abroad to fuel profits. Putting this into proper context, foreign GDP has outpaced U.S. growth by 3.9% since 2000, but is now expected to be an outright drag."
The firm continued: "More specifically, revenue growth for more globally oriented companies substantially outpaced their more domestically oriented peers throughout the recovery. However, over the past several quarters, this advantage has waned, reversing direction in 1Q."
Citigroup is of a similar mind, saying the second quarter isn't likely to repeat the first quarter's strength. The firm believes analyst expectations have come down enough in general to generate "modest
there's that word again positive 'surprises'" but it thinks the fourth quarter may be problematic as the current sell-side view doesn't appear to reflect the worsening macro situation in Europe.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said Monday the early indications are that the second quarter is going to be a tough one and it echoed Citigroup's worries about the fourth quarter.
Twenty-five S&P 500 companies have already reported 2Q results, with 56% beating on EPS, 40% on sales, and 28% on both," the firm noted before the market open. "At this time last quarter, results were better: 68% of companies had beaten on EPS, 82% had beaten on sales, and 57% had beaten on both. Positive surprises may be less abundant compared to last quarter when analysts had grown too pessimistic, in our view, ahead of earnings season. Companies which disappointed last quarter were punished more than companies that beat were rewarded, and we could see a similar scenario this quarter amid building macro uncertainty as investors look for confirmation that the US corporate sector remains healthy."
B of A pointed out that analysts are currently looking 14% year-over-year earnings growth in the fourth quarter but its own economists sees gross domestic product growth of just 1%, an equation that doesn't add up.
"Estimate revisions have begun to roll over, with analysts now making more cuts than increases to EPS on a three-month basis, but we think this trend may have further to go," the firm said. "We have taken a more cautious stance on our earnings estimates for companies with high foreign or US government exposure, given the recession in Europe and high level of uncertainty ahead of the US fiscal cliff that will likely lead to slowing growth in the second half of this year."
The commentary is timely given the
to top-line expectations by
Advanced Micro Devices
. The no. 2 chip maker now sees a sequential decrease in revenue of 11% for the second quarter, down from a prior forecast for growth of 3%.
AMD, whose shares fell more than 5% in late trades, cited slow growth in China and Europe as well as weak consumer demand for PCS for the weak outlook.
fared better after the bell. The Dow component
by a penny and saw its shares rise early 1% after the bell.
Investors may not want to read too much into what Alcoa's report means for the broad market though as the company's bottom-line performance has more to do with how well it manages expenses and hedges on aluminum pricing than anything else. Revenue totaled $5.96 billion but that was down year-over-year and Alcoa's operating profit was just $61 million for the three-month period.
As for Tuesday's scheduled news, it's a light earnings day with names like
Helen of Troy
Wolverine World Wide
serving as the headliners.
The economic calendar is bare except for the
small-business optimism survey for June at 7:30 a.m. ET. Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at
High Frequency Economics
is expecting a dip down to 93 from May's reading of 94.4 after Friday's disappointing jobs report.
"Overall, the resilience in the survey over the past couple of months has been encouraging," said Shepherdson, who views the data as the most important survey of the month. "Along with the housing data, the NFIB index has been one of the few numbers not to buckle in the wake of the surge in gas prices between December and April. We would love to think this fortitude will be evident in the June report but the weakness in the labor market components is making us nervous."
looks to be in for another horrific session on Tuesday after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the closing bell. Speculation that a filing was imminent sent the stock down more than 70% in Monday's regular trading and the stock fell another 38% after the bell to just 38 cents on volume of more than 3 million.
The St. Louis-based coal company said it's secured $802 million in debtor-in-possession financing to continue operations as it reorganizes and attributed its descent into bankruptcy to the "cancellation of customer contracts, lower thermal coal prices and rising expenditures for environmental and other liabilities" which have "severely constrained" its liquidity and financial flexibility.
Written by Michael Baron in New York.
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