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How bad will Q2 earnings be?

July 13, 2020, 3:11 PM UTC

This is the quarter we’ve been waiting for.

Since the country plunged into lockdown in March, analysts have long projected the data in the second fiscal quarter of the year would be the most grisly—and we’re about to find out just how bad things actually were.

“The second quarter of 2020 is expected to be the nadir for this earnings recession within the current economic contraction,” CFRA’s Sam Stovall wrote in a Monday note.

But according to Goldman Sachs, the estimates for how bad earnings will be in the second quarter aren’t sober enough: The firm is projecting earnings will plunge 60% year over year, versus the Street consensus of around 44%, analysts at the firm wrote on Friday.

Despite that, analysts at Goldman are actually raising their full-year 2020 S&P 500 earnings estimate from $110 in earnings per share (EPS) to $115 EPS. What’s more, the firm is projecting a far more optimistic outlook in 2021 and 2022—and anticipates that’s what many executives will focus on in earnings calls.

“Given the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., we expect management commentary will prove more important to gauging the forward path of earnings than actual 2Q results,” the analysts wrote.

The firm estimates earnings will recover 48% (reaching $170) next year. Plus, something new: Goldman also introduced a 2022 EPS estimate, at $188 EPS (both above the Street’s consensus).

The main driver for the firm’s better-than-consensus estimates? Goldman’s economists’ estimates for GDP growth this year and next are above consensus, the firm writes. Indeed, economists at the firm wrote on Sunday, “Our baseline economic forecast is consistent with a ‘partial V’ [recovery] with more than half of the output decline reversing by September, but pre-corona GDP levels not achieved until mid-2021.” Elsewhere on Wall Street, some economists are saying we’re actually seeing the start of a reverse square root recovery.

Meanwhile, the market also seems a bit more optimistic, with the S&P 500 having risen over 2% in the past two weeks. “I think it’s safe to say, with the market bouncing back like this, it is expecting solid earnings or better-than-expected earnings,” LPL Financial’s Ryan Detrick recently told Fortune.

That’s what Goldman Sachs is seeing, too. “We—and many investors—expect the coronavirus-induced collapse in profits will be concentrated in 2020,” analysts wrote.

Still, those like Charles Schwab’s chief investment strategist Liz Ann Sonders have long been wary of investors looking into 2021 and 2022 for earnings growth: “Even on 2021 earnings, to the extent you believe them, I don’t think anyone can have conviction in earnings in this environment,” she recently told Fortune. And with valuations for stocks so high, “we’re set up for some risks here,” she told Fortune back in June.

One thing to keep an eye on: big-bank earnings. JPMorgan Chase, First Republic Bank, Wells Fargo, and Citibank are all reporting on Tuesday, and Goldman projects bank earnings will decline by 69% in the second quarter.

Unsurprisingly, tech is supposed to outperform the pack.

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