Will economy's fate be set by next two weeks' earnings?

Sun Jul 20, 2014 12:07am EDT
 
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By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A long hoped for improvement in the economy appears to be manifesting itself in second-quarter U.S. earnings, but the next two weeks could be the real test.

Companies such as General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote) and Intel Corp (INTC.O: Quote) have reported solid results. In addition, GE believes now is a ripe moment to spin off its private label credit card division in the hopes growing consumer demand will make it more attractive.

Intel declared that personal computer sales have stabilized, while it forecast third-quarter revenue above Wall Street's expectations.

Profit growth for the second quarter is now estimated at 6.7 percent - excluding results from Citigroup Inc (C.N: Quote), which was hit by a big adjustment from a mortgage settlement - better than where they stood at the end of June.

In addition, 68 percent of S&P 500 companies so far are beating analysts' profit expectations, above the 63 percent long-term average, according to Thomson Reuters data. A similarly high percentage of companies are beating revenue forecasts.

"Analysts may be underestimating the level of prospective improvement in the second quarter," wrote Carmine Grigoli, chief investment strategist at Mizuho Securities in New York.

The latest profit estimate is up from a July 1 forecast of 6.2 percent, while revenue growth, now 3.2 percent, is on track to be the highest since the third quarter.

Still, it's easy to overestimate the excitement. Many of the early reporting is by financial companies, not always the best barometer of Main Street activity.   Continued...

 
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid