By the close Friday, February 5, 2021, slightly more than half of the S&P 500 had reported calendar fourth-quarter earnings.

Relative to expectations, results have been strong. According to FactSet, the blended earnings growth rate for fourth-quarter S&P 500 earnings is 1.7%, which is a dramatic improvement from the negative 9.3% (-9.3%) expected at the end of the quarter and the -12.6% anticipated at the end of 2020. Revenues now are expected to have risen 2.7%. The current earnings beat rate is 81%. Companies are reporting earnings that are 15.2% above expectations versus the 11.9% one-year-average positive rate.

If final fourth-quarter earnings end up 1.7%, it will mark the first time the S&P 500 has reported year-over-year earnings growth since the fourth quarter of 2019, and it will be the highest year-over-year earnings growth reported by the index since the fourth quarter of 2018.

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