With the record first quarter in the books we perform a quick postmortem and find some stunning things, the first of which is that the 12% YTD growth in the S&P YTD has been entirely due to multiple expansion: consensus 2012 EPS has declined by 2% since the start of 2012. Why multiple expansion? Because as Goldman (this would be "bad" Goldman in the face of David Kostin, not "good" Goldman ala Peter Oppenheimer who top ticked the market two weeks ago by telling everyone to get out of bonds and into stocks) which still has a 1250 year end price target says "the ECB reduced “tail risk” via the LTRO." Which means that as of today, the market is officially overvalued: "Since December the forward P/E multiple has expanded by 10% from 12.1x to 13.2x, above its 35-year average of 12.9x" even as EPS estimates have actually declined by 2% since the beginning of the year! It gets funnier when one accounts for the outsized impact of just one company. Apple. "Apple continues to have a significant impact on sector- and index-level results. Info Tech contributed 399 bp of the S&P 500 12% YTD return, but AAPL alone accounted for 179 bp or 15% of the rise in S&P 500 during 1Q. The company constitutes 22% of the Info Tech sector’s market cap and generates 22% of its earnings. Consensus expects year/year EPS growth in 1Q 2012 of 6% for S&P 500 and 12% for Info Tech, but excluding AAPL these expectations fall to 4% for both Tech and the index. While Information Technology was the only sector to see margin growth in 4Q 2011, margins declined without Apple. In 1Q 2012, Tech margins are expected to grow by 16 bp YoY in total, but fall 33 bp without AAPL." Finally as the chart below shows, 2012 forward EPS have been declining ever since July, when they peaked just short of 114, and are now down to just about 105. In other words: without Apple and the margin boosting impact of the LTRO, the quarter (and really last two quarters) would have been a disaster. As noted earlier (and to Spain's detriment) the LTRO effect has now phased out. How long until the Apple mania meets the same fate?
2012 full year EPS revisions YTD: down, down down, even as any potential growth is completely back end (Q4) loaded:
Starting last summer, earnings reality has set in.
Finally, it's all about Apple.