Just a few weeks now ’til first quarter earnings seasons kicks off on April 10. S&P is forecasting full-year earnings growth of 5% in 2012 for a record $105 a share for the S&P 500 companies. But after a remarkable 28% rebound over the past 5 months in US stock prices, valuations seem truly primed for perfection notwithstanding an economic backdrop of slowing global growth. For those who forget, we are coming off last quarter where a low 63% of S&P 500 companies beat earnings estimates in Q4 2011 (a “normal” beat rate is well above 70%). And the Q4 beat rate would have been more like 55% if not for the star power of blowout quarters from Apple and Caterpillar.
Over the past few weeks, companies themselves have been trying to prepare shareholders for a letdown, with negative pre-announcements now at their highest level since the March 2009 market lows. So far it seems at least six of the 10 S&P 500 sectors are likely to see earnings declines in Q1.
Meanwhile money continues to pour out of domestic stock-based mutual funds, with another $2.84 billion leaving last week, according to the Investment Company Institute. See: Market’s Next Big Worry.
Maybe Muppets are not so plentiful as Wall Street assumes after all.