Zacks Earnings Preview: Q4 Earnings: Banks In Focus

Jan 14, 2013, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Jan. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- releases the list of companies likely to issue earnings surprises. This week's list includes Bank of America (BAC), Wells Fargo (WFC), JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C) and US Bancorp (USB)


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Looking Ahead to Q4 Earnings

The fourth quarter reporting season is underway, and we have results from 27 companies in the S&P 500 already (as of Friday, November 11th). The pace of reporting accelerates this week, though we don't get into the heart of the earnings season till the week after.

We will get fourth quarter earnings results from 69 companies, including 37 from the S&P 500. The earnings reports thus far have been relatively improved, but after more than a tenth of the earnings reports out by the end of the week, we will have a better sample size to evaluate how this earnings season is unfolding.

The performance of the 27 companies that have already reported are better in all respects compared to what these same companies did in the third quarter. The growth rate is higher, more companies are beating, and the median surprise is higher -- both for earnings and revenues.

But with 95% of the reports still to come, the more important story on the earnings front pertains to expectations from the coming reports. And there has been no letup in the downward adjustments to those expectations. Last week's foreclosure related banking settlement caused further negative revisions to estimates to a number of banks, particularly Bank of America (BAC). The Zacks Consensus estimate for Bank of America fell from 19 cents to 2 cents last week, a roughly $2 billion swing in earnings.

This week's earnings reports are heavily weighted towards Finance, with all the major banks coming out with fourth quarter results. We got solid earnings and revenue beats from Wells Fargo (WFC) due to its strong mortgage franchise, but the bank's net interest margin (NIM) remained under pressure.

This means that other banks with smaller mortgage businesses will be even more at the mercy of the unfavorable NIM backdrop. We'll know more this week, as Bank of America,JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C) and many of the other major regional banks like US Bancorp (USB) report results, but expectations for Finance sector earnings have come down.

Total fourth quarter earnings for the Finance sector, which a few days back were expected to be up +9.7%, are now expected to be up only +2%. As a result, total earnings for the 473 S&P 500 companies that have still to report results are now expected to be down -1.2% from the same period last year.

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