So far in this fourth-quarter earnings report season, some companies are showing great earnings while others are missing badly. For example, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) got hit hard, while Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has surged after its latest quarterly results.
Many stocks are fast approaching their “peak earnings” phase due primarily to some difficult year-over-year earnings comparisons. According to Bespoke Investment Group, only 57.9% of the S&P reporting companies have exceeded analyst earnings estimates. That may sound good, but it’s the lowest proportion of earnings surprises since the bull market began in 2009. Top-line revenues delivered only 54% positive surprises — also the weakest number in the current bull market.
Three sectors account for the bulk of earnings disappointments: consumer staples, energy and financial.
Meanwhile, industrial companies with a global footprint seem to be performing more strongly than others. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) reported better-than-expected earnings on Thursday as the company remained optimistic on global growth and also forecasted an increase in U.S. construction spending for the first time since 2004.
Mike DeWalt, Caterpillar’s head of investor relations, said the upturn in demand is helping his company experience its “best growth since Harry Truman was president.” Other big industrial companies that were upbeat last week included Eaton (NYSE:ETN), Nucor (NYSE:NUE) and Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD), which all reported better-than-expected earnings. Clearly, this optimistic outlook bodes well for industrial companies around the world.