Risk of U.S. corporate recession rises as earnings outlook dims

LONDON (Reuters) - The outlook for Wall Street earnings has deteriorated significantly in recent months, data shows, raising the risk that companies in the United States may slip into recession before its economy does - with Europe close behind.

FILE PHOTO: A street sign, Wall Street, is seen outside New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Analysts on average expect the S&P 500’s first-quarter earnings per share to drop 0.3 percent year-on-year, according to I/B/E/S Refinitiv data.

That’s a big drop from the 8.2 percent rise expected as recently as October and would mark the first contraction in U.S. company earnings in three years.

Analysts have also made deep cuts to forecasts for the rest of the year.

They still expect growth in the remaining three quarters, meaning Wall Street would avoid a technical recession typically defined as a fall in two consecutive quarters. But only just, as the lowered growth forecasts are meager.

For a graphic on U.S. earnings estimates over time:

The swift pace and size of the cuts have kindled concerns that the downward trend will continue, particularly as companies struggle with squeezed margins and large amounts of debt.

The full-year estimate stands at just 4.2 percent now, down more than half from 10.2 percent in October.

It’s pretty gloomy on the other side of the Atlantic too. Analysts anticipate barely any growth among European companies listed on the STOXX 600 at the slowest in 18 months, data shows.

For a graphic on European earnings estimates over time:

Reporting by Josephine Mason and Helen Reid; editing by John Stonestreet