By Jeff Cox | CNBC
Sunday, Juu 22, 2012
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While this quarter’s earnings reports have crossed a substantially lowered profit bar, future expectations through the year indicate a recession could be on the way.
Estimates for the third and fourth quarters have been dropped to levels not seen since the days of the 2008 financial crisis, below even the muted 2 percent expected level of inflation.
That’s an ominous recession sign for an economy that has barely managed to attain positive growth this year even with the strong level of earnings beats, according to an analysis by Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx in New York.
“Revenue estimates for the back half of 2012 have been slowly working their way lower this year,” Colas said. “This trend, however, has accelerated to the downside over the past 30 days and we are fast approaching levels where these estimates are unambiguously pointing to the risk of a U.S./global recession later into 2012 and 2013.”
For the current quarter, about 69 percent of companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 (^GSPC) have beaten analyst profit estimates. Only 42 percent, though, have beaten on top-line revenue estimates, indicating that growth is weakening.
That’s evidenced by a rash of downward forward revisions from analysts.
In the broader S&P 1500, analysts have cut outlooks for 792 companies and raised for just 323, with the decreases especially prevalent in technology, which saw half its components down, the highest level since February 2009, according to Bespoke Investment Group.
In Colas’ analysis, though, he limited his look to the companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJIA).
Analysts now expect revenue to grow at just 1 percent to 1.5 percent pace in the third quarter. The forecast for the fourth quarter is 3.9 percent, though Colas says “I doubt any analyst could defend this point of view unless they expect a rapidly weakening dollar…or a truly epic round of liquidity-pumping operations from the world’s central banks.”
Colas is not alone in his expectations for recession.
Laksman Achuthan, at the Economic Cycle Research Institute, made headlines late last year when he said he expected recession to hit the U.S. in the first quarter, which, according to the most current data, didn’t happen.
But he recently said in media appearances that he is sticking to the call, saying the country already could be in recession or is progressing toward one later this year.
“There have been a lot of economists and analysts who have had their blinders on for quite some time,” said Brian LaRose, an analyst at United-ICAP in Jersey City, N.J. “We’re not bullish on the recovery here in the U.S. We think that there are far greater problems ahead that have yet to be addressed.”
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