Quarter by quarter, the game for investors remains the same: Try to forecast corporate profits well enough that your winning stocks outnumber losers. Often, there's a vast gulf between trying and succeeding. But all told, as BUSINESS WEEK's flash report on second-quarter corporate profits shows, Wall Street analysts seem to have made pretty fair estimates of the quarterly results.
BW has revised its quarterly flash-profits report to offer readers a fuller and faster understanding of corporate earnings news--and the implications for investors. In past reports, along with sales and earnings, we noted companies' net profit margins. Since that's a figure readers can reckon for themselves simply by dividing net profits into sales, we're now adding more information to the table by supplanting the net margin data with three new columns. The first lists Wall Street's consensus estimate (as of the Thursday preceding the quarter's close) of each company's earnings per share. The next lists the earnings per share each company actually posted. The final column shows the difference in dollars and cents. This way, readers can tell at a glance which companies met or dashed the market's expectations.
A PENNY HERE. We've also divided the flash report by general categories: industrials, services, technology, and utilities and telecommunications. And we've reckoned composites for each group's performance, the better to judge individual companies against. The composites show that earnings surprises were few this quarter: Industrial companies, for instance, came in just three cents below forecasts, while service firms did a penny better than expected. But specific cases--check AMR Corp. and Texas Instruments Inc., to name two--held lots to shock and delight investors.