Yes, we know it doesn't matter because Ben & Mario have got our backs at whatever multiple is required to levitate the economy market, but as Citi's credit desk points out; despite the constant chatter about EPS beats (despite top-line misses), the trick is that analysts have been dragging down expectations since the earnings-cycle began and so judging 'misses' must be done against a 'frozen' pre-earnings number. If we do this 'fair' approach to considering expectations, the percentage miss in the S&P 500's EPS for Q2 2012 is as bad as the Q2/Q3 2011 Tsunami-driven miss - and the worst we have seen since Lehman Brothers shuffled off this mortal coil. So as usual, be careful what truth you believe and consider just how much more 'hope' is now in this market given this reality.
Citi Credit Weekly
Undoubtedly, part of the reason that Spain and Greece have come back into focus is that the earnings of US companies continue to be so uneven. With more than half of S&P500 companies having reported, we’re only now starting to get the full picture, and viewed from the top down perspective it’s far less pretty than even last week led us to believe. Relative to expectations, top line revenues have been especially weak, with nearly all sectors surprising to the downside, even as EPS and EBITDA have tended to beat.
But even those sorts of statistics tend to hide the true weakness because equity analysts tend to revise expectations down while earnings season is still ongoing, which explains why some 72% of S&P500 companies manage to beat expectations in a weak quarter.
To get a truer picture of the magnitude of disappointment, it’s necessary to freeze estimates prior to the start of earnings season, so that those companies reporting later don’t get the benefit of having the bar set lower by the early reporters. And viewed this way, we see that earnings surprises have been about as bad as the third quarter of 2011, which were impacted by the Japanese earthquake and the debt ceiling debate.