When it comes to second-quarter earnings season, look out below.
The market already knows corporate results are going to be ugly for the most recent period, with only an easy year-over-year comparison from Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) allowing the S&P 500 to post an earnings gain instead of a loss.
But here we stand barely three days into the reporting period, and companies already are slashing profit and sales forecasts like mad.
It’s no secret that slower expansion in China and sluggish-to-zero growth in Europe (China’s biggest market) were going to hammer top and bottom lines. Higher costs and a stronger dollar — which makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas — aren’t helping matters, either. And unless you’re living in a cave, weaker-than-expected domestic demand is hardly a shock.
(Of course, if you’re living in a cave, weaker-than-expected domestic demand is partially your fault.)
That’s why the ratio of earnings warnings to positive pre-announcements already stood at levels not seen in more than a decade — and that was before a slew of companies slashed their outlooks in the past few days.
Here’s a look at some of the most recent and troubling warnings, ranging from tech stocks to industrials to retail:
- Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD), the chip maker, said it now expects second-quarter revenues to fall 11% compared with the first quarter because of lackluster sales in Europe and China.
- Seagate Technology (NASDAQ:STX) cut its quarterly revenue forecast by $500 million because slumping global demand for PCs is cutting into the hard drive business.
- Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT), which makes the gear that makes semiconductors, slashed its full-year profit and sales targets because of the slowdown in global technology spending.
- Acme Packet (NASDAQ:APKT), which makes equipment for phone and data networks, said second-quarter earnings and sales will come in well below Street forecasts, hurt by weak demand in North America.
- Cummins (NYSE:CMI), which makes engines for heavy machinery, slashed its full-year sales projections, citing weakness in capital goods orders in the U.S., China, Europe, India and Brazil.
- HHGregg (NYSE:HGG), the consumer electronics retailer, forecast a wider first-quarter loss, as consumers cut back on purchases, notably in the video-game business.
Expect more to come.
If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that the market was expecting earnings to be terrible. Analysts, on average, forecast the S&P 500 to post an earnings increase of just 3%, down from the prior week’s forecast of 3.1%, according to FactSet data. Strip out BofA’s contribution (bouncing back from last year’s $8.5 billion mortgage lawsuit settlement), and the S&P 500’s earnings are expected to actually drop by 1.7%.
As recently as March, the Street was looking for profit growth of 6.8%. The outlook has fallen far and fast, and that’s probably good a thing. Further profit warnings compel analysts to take down their estimates even more, and that makes it easier for companies to beat the Street when they report.
Yes, it’s a stupid game, but it matters. The market doesn’t dislike bad news nearly so much as it hates nasty surprises. The lower the corporate earnings bar, the better.
As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.