Earnings Season: Growth Is Back But The Boom Is Elusive

This is the best earnings season since late 2022. At last, companies in the S&P 500 are growing the bottom line again despite all obstacles arrayed against them. It’s a welcome surprise, but the question is where the next season takes us.

After all, the previous quarter was better than any of the pessimists dared to dream. And in the wake of a great quarter, we’d all like to see better and better results as big companies build on their momentum.

But the obstacles are also stacking up. Based on the pattern of guidance, earnings growth in the current quarter will probably slow down a little.

Slowing growth means the trend flattens out. It gets closer to zero . . . stagnation. And from there, we could go back to the wintry conditions of earnings recession, where the “E” side of the P/E calculation goes down, forcing market valuations UP even if prices run in place.

Nobody wants to go there again quite so soon. But a month ago, we were hoping to see 8-9% earnings growth in the current quarter. Now those expectations have scaled back hard and the earliest the real boom can come is next year.

This is exactly what “higher for longer” means. Every month the Fed refuses to cut rates they admit are restrictive slows the economy down. Money stops moving. Companies find their customers pausing their expansion plans and delaying key orders.

Earnings growth slows down. And that’s exactly what the market now sees ahead. The good news is that the current quarter is now close to half over. We can already see early next year coming.

Instant gratification is nice . . . but it’s relatively rare on Wall Street. Six weeks, on the other hand, is worth waiting out if there’s a reward at the end. At that point, we’ll be in the first quarter. And unless rates stay higher for a longer version of “longer,” the boom will be underway.