Mean Reversion

Chart of the Day has yet another fascinating chart. This one looks at inflation-adjusted S&P 500 earnings:

click for larger chart:



"Today’s chart illustrates that inflation-adjusted S&P 500 earnings have surged since the latter part of 2002 and and currently rest at a level that is very near the highs of 2000. Investors will continue to pay close attention to the upcoming round of quarterly reports to determine if earnings can maintain their recent uptrend and support a further increase in stock prices. Stay tuned…"

This chart suggests quite a few things to me: 

Rapid economic reinflation (post crash) fell to the corporate bottom line;
Low interest rates helped companies clean up their balance sheets;
Low wages increased profits;
Tax cuts had a very positive impact on earnings.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out one last thing: As the chart reveals, the last time we saw a surge in profits — 1999-2000 — we were near the peak in the market. Its a pretty straight forward analysis:  As earnings momentum peaks and then fades, markets are vulnerable to corrections. Not the 15% I called for on Monday, but real, major, ugly crashes.

Also, note that with this post, I have added the category "earnings."


Chart of the Day

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. David Andrew Taylor commented on Mar 30

    I’d be curious to see how much of these earnings come from oil. Producers have felt the effects of higher prices, but have not really passed on the higher production costs of oil. Oil company profits must be huge from the past two years. If these could have been seperated, that would surely be an interesting chart.

  2. fred krueger commented on Mar 30

    Another cyclical factor is the extreme low interest rates of 2003-2004. I wonder what the earnings of the financial sector will look like in a 4.3% 3 month libor environment as predicted by dec eurodollars.

  3. touche commented on Mar 30

    I suspect that these are initially reported earnings. It would be interesting to see restated earnings instead whenever those are available. I’m thinking of the bogus earnings of Enron, Worldcom and their ilk. I also suspect that bogus earnings (earnings first reported minus restated earnings) reached a crescendo in the late 1990s as a percent of total earnings. Do any firms tally restated earnings?

  4. anne commented on Mar 30

    Terrific as usual, Barry :)

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