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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
Zacks Earnings Trends Highlights: Tiffany and Aeropostale

CHICAGO, Jan. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "Zacks Director of Research Sheraz Mian says the fourth quarter earnings season has started on a relatively favorable note, but it's too early to draw any firm conclusions at this stage."


Positive Start to Q4 Earnings Season

The fourth quarter earnings season has started on a relatively favorable note, perhaps indicating that expectations may have come down enough to make positive surprises easier to come by. And the Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) and Aeropostale (NYSE:ARO) news notwithstanding, we haven't seen that many negative pre-announcements either. But it's way too early to make any prediction at this stage as the bulk of the earnings season is ahead of us.

Total earnings for the 26 S&P 500 companies that have already reported results as of Thursday January 10th are up 4.7% from the same period last year, with 57.7% of the companies beating expectations with a median surprise of +1.4%. Revenues are up 3.5%, with 48% of the companies beating top-line expectations and a median revenue surprise of +0.3%. This is better than what this same group of companies did in the third quarter, when total earnings were down 5.9% and less than half of these 25 companies could beat earnings expectations.

Combining the few earnings reports that have come out with the bulk of the reports still to come, total fourth quarter earnings are expected to be up +0.5% from the same period last year. This is a sharp drop from the +7.9% growth expected in the quarter in late September, just before the third quarter earnings season was getting underway. As was the case in the third quarter (and practically every quarter before that), the actual growth rate will most likely be better than these pre-season expectations, given management teams' mastery of under-promising and over-delivering.

Ahead of the third quarter reporting season, the expectation was for earnings in that quarter to be down 3.4%. While the actual earnings drop turned out to be 'only' -0.1%, it was nevertheless the weakest earnings growth rate in almost 12 quarters. And if the magnitude of outperformance in the fourth quarter is comparable to the last four quarters, then the final growth tally should be in the +2% vicinity. This would mean that corporate earnings were essentially flat in the second half of 2012.

But this sub-par earnings growth trend is not expected to last long, or at least that's what current consensus expectations mean. After another quarter of weak results in the first quarter of 2013, earnings growth resumes in the following quarter and ramps up materially in the back half of 2013. I have been skeptical of those growth expectations for a while now, but that's exactly what the market is pricing at present.

 Want stock picks from Zacks Equity Research that are based on earnings estimates? Subscribe to the free "Profit from the Pros" newsletter:  

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

Zacks "Profit from the Pros" e-mail newsletter provides highlights of the latest analysis from Zacks Equity Research. Subscribe to this free newsletter today:

About Zacks is a property of Zacks Investment Research, Inc., which was formed in 1978 by Len Zacks. The company continually processes stock reports issued by 3,000 analysts from 150 brokerage firms.  It monitors more than 200,000 earnings estimates, looking for changes.

Then, when changes are discovered, they're applied to help assign more than 4,400 stocks into five Zacks Rank categories: #1 Strong Buy, #2 Buy, #3 Hold, #4 Sell, and #5 Strong Sell. This proprietary stock-picking system continues to outperform the market by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.  

The best way to unlock profitable Zacks' stock recommendations and market insights is through the free daily email newsletter: "Profit from the Pros." It provides a steady flow of profitable ideas GUARANTEED to be worth your time. Register for your free subscription at

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Visit for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Investors should always research companies and securities before making any investments. Nothing herein should be construed as an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any security.

Contact: Sheraz Mian


Phone: 312-265-9211




SOURCE Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

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