With the S&P 500 first-quarter earnings reporting season finally more than half over, as 60.4% of the index’s components having reported results, the blended EPS growth estimate is now nearly double what it was when the reporting started, and about triple what it was at the end of the fourth quarter. The overall blended earnings-per-share growth rate, which includes reported results and consensus analyst estimates for yet-to-be-reported EPS, is 45.7% through Friday morning, according to FactSet data, compared with 24.6% at the start of the reporting season nearly three weeks ago. At the end of the fourth quarter, the growth estimate was 15.6%. The current growth outlook is the highest since the first quarter of 2010, when earnings increased 55.4%. The sectors showing the biggest growth are consumer discretionary at 180.1% and financials at 133.5%, while industrials is the only sector currently showing an EPS decline, of 6.4%. The reason for the big improvement in the growth outlook is that 86% of companies that have reported have beat expectations, which is on pace to the the highest percentage since FactSet started tracking beat percentages in 2008. The S&P 500 is down 0.6% in afternoon trading, but has gained 6.0% in April.

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