Goldman Sees Opportunity in U.S. Earnings' Apple-JPMorgan `Gap'

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. corporate profits this year may not be as bad as many in the market expect, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The aggregate estimates for S&P 500 Index earnings growth mask a wide dispersion that obscures the potential for some good results, strategists led by David Kostin wrote in a note Friday. The median member is expected to see earnings-per-share growth of 7 percent in 2019, compared with just 4 percent for the aggregate index, they said.

Goldman Sees Opportunity in U.S. Earnings' Apple-JPMorgan `Gap'

“The gap between the median and aggregate EPS growth underscores the opportunity for fundamental investors,” the strategists said. “The wide distribution of earnings growth highlights the importance of fundamental stock-picking as a way of differentiating returns and reinforces our expectation for a shift from ‘beta’ to ‘alpha.”’

Micron Technology Inc. and Apple Inc. alone represent a drag of 20 percent on the S&P 500’s annual profit growth forecast, Kostin said. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Inc., two of the biggest contributors, are expected to add 12 percent.

Analysts currently expect a small gain for second-quarter S&P 500 earnings after a decline in the first, but one within easy striking distance of a negative number that could be erased quickly as revisions arrive. Morgan Stanley’s chief U.S. equity strategist, Mike Wilson, recently declared that the “earnings recession is here” already. Two consecutive quarters of declines is how many economists define a technical recession.

Goldman is “less concerned” than many investors about the risk of an earnings recession, Kostin said. He cited the dispersion issue as well as an expectation that weak year-over-year profit growth should improve in the second half of the year. He also said the market has already priced in an earnings slowdown, and that revisions have troughed.

“S&P 500 returns will be more modest and micro-driven in the near-term,” Kostin wrote. “We recommend investors focus on relative value and idiosyncratic alpha opportunities.”

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