Earnings Season Somewhat Disappointing

01/24/2014 11:00 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

This earnings season, so far, has had its share of disappointing beats and surprises, however, MoneyShow's Jim Jubak thinks these key factors make the season even more disappointing.

So far, in absolute numbers, this earnings season could be called somewhat disappointing. About 50% of the 10% of Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) companies that have reported earnings, have beaten Wall Street estimates. That's below the long-term average of 63% and well below the four-year average of 74%.

But I think the earnings season, so far, is actually more disappointing than that absolute underperformance suggests. Too many of the earnings beats are by just a penny, or so, and too many earnings surprises are coupled with misses on revenue. Others combine an earnings beat with a cut to guidance for the first quarter, or all of 2014. And other companies are managing to report an earnings beat only thanks to a clearly one-time factor, or a bit of financial engineering using, frequently, share buybacks.

With US stocks ending 2013 at historical highs, investors just aren't impressed with that kind of earnings beat.

Want some examples?

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) reported earnings per share four cents above the analyst consensus. But the company forecast that 2014 earnings would be $5.75 to $5.85 a share. That's below the Wall Street consensus estimate of $5.86 a share.

Abbott Laboratories (ABT), a Jubak's Picks Portfolio member, reported earnings per share in line with estimates, but revenue climbed just 0.4% and missed analyst estimates by $64 million.

US Bancorp (USB) managed to beat on earnings by a penny a share, but revenue fell by 4.4% year over year and was just in line with estimates.

McDonald's (MCD) beat on earnings by a penny, but revenue grew year over year by just 2% and came in $15 million short of Wall Street projections.

Verizon (VZ) beat analyst estimates by four cents a share, but reported revenue $29 million below expectations.

Of course, this earnings season is also reporting the usual share of just plain bad results, such as the five cents a share earnings and the $66 million revenue miss at Coach (COH).

But truly positive reports, like the 11 cents a share earnings surprise at ASML Holding (ASML), with revenue growth of 81% year over year that put revenue $22 million above Wall Street estimates, have been light on the ground, so far, this quarter.

Which has put investors in such a funk about earnings and revenue—and the prospects of future earnings and revenue—that even an ASML falls on its news.

Full disclosure: I don't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did not own shares of any stock mentioned in this post as of the end of December. For a full list of the stocks in the fund, see the fund's portfolio here.

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