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Contracting S&P 500 Corporate Earnings Confirm US Recession

Economics / Corporate Earnings Jul 29, 2008 - 02:05 PM GMT

By: Paul_L_Kasriel

Economics Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleAre we in a recession or are we not? The debate goes on. Take a look at the year-over-year change in operating profits of the S&P 500 corporations (see Chart 1). Profits have declined for three consecutive quarters through the first quarter of this year. Given reports of second-quarter profits to date and estimates of those corporate profits to be reported, it is a good bet that year-over-year profits will be down for four consecutive quarters.


The data series in Chart 1 only goes back to the first quarter of 1989. But these limited data points suggest that the current behavior of corporate profits is signaling a recession. The data for year-over-year changes in reported S&P 500 profits (see Chart 2) start in the first quarter of 1965. The message is the same - current corporate profit behavior is consistent with past behavior in periods of recession.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Now, the nice thing about corporate profit data is that they do not get revised as do a lot of other data that go into the recession decision. (I suppose that there might be an exception to this when it comes to the profit data associated with Fannie and Freddie!) With the S&P 500 profits data there is no debate as to whether the Commerce Department is using a correct measure of prices to deflate nominal data. If Ben Stein wants to continue arguing that the U.S. economy has not yet slipped into a recession, as he did in Sunday's New York Times , so be it. In the meantime, those who are paying attention to the behavior of corporate profits continue to win Ben Stein's money.

By Paul L. Kasriel
The Northern Trust Company
Economic Research Department - Daily Global Commentary

Copyright © 2007 Paul Kasriel
Paul joined the economic research unit of The Northern Trust Company in 1986 as Vice President and Economist, being named Senior Vice President and Director of Economic Research in 2000. His economic and interest rate forecasts are used both internally and by clients. The accuracy of the Economic Research Department's forecasts has consistently been highly-ranked in the Blue Chip survey of about 50 forecasters over the years. To that point, Paul received the prestigious 2006 Lawrence R. Klein Award for having the most accurate economic forecast among the Blue Chip survey participants for the years 2002 through 2005.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Northern Trust Company. The Northern Trust Company does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of information contained herein, such information is subject to change and is not intended to influence your investment decisions.

Paul L. Kasriel Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

Mike Bracken
02 Aug 08, 14:39
S&P Profits
Excellent charts and comment. Two notes of interest:

1. Huge, out of character gain in 2003 was the near $100 billion in profits held illegally offshore and repatriated in a Bush amnesty in which guilty corporations paid %5 tax rather than 35%.

2. Profit declines in 2008 are considerably (about 30%) worse when oil company profits are removed. This 'propping up' of the averages will only increase in the future. And forward looking profit estimates are at lest 50% overvalued using time-tested formulas.

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