European Earnings Season: What to Expect

Investors are braced for bad news, with earnings expected to have declined significantly during Q4

Jocelyn Jovene 22 January, 2024 | 9:31AM
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European earnings season is starting this week with many large companies reporting across the continent.

Between January 24 and February 8, about half of the Europe market indexes will release earnings, including the largest European public companies like Novo Nordisk, L’Oreal, ASML, SAP, LVMH, as well as major pharma, banks and energy stocks.

And by March 8, 87% of European companies are expected to have published their Q4 earnings.

But investors are braced for bad news, with earnings expected to have declined significantly during Q4, especially in the energy and industry sectors.

The reporting season will give us the opportunity, given a tough economic and geopolitical backdrop, to see how companies assess the current environment and the outlook for the year to come.

Don’t expect too much excitement on that front though.

Forecast for Earnings Season is Weak

According to a recent report from BofA Securities dated January 15, the consensus expects -16% year-on-year EPS growth in Q4, the weakest since Q3 2020. This would mark a deterioration after -11% and -12% year-on-year earnings change in the previous two quarters.

“High interest rates will play a big part, squeezing stocks and industries with high levels of debt”, says Michael Field, Europe strategist at Morningstar.

Energy is expected to be the major negative contributor to this decline, followed by industrials, while financials should be the bright spot, according to BofA.

Yet the trend going forward for banks and energy earnings might not be as bright. “Bank earnings momentum has faded to 2%, around the lowest since May 2022, down from a peak of 12% in April last year”, notes BofA.

“Output PMIs for most sectors are well below 50, suggesting that the trend of weakening surprises and weakening sales/earnings growth should be the base case”, UBS wrote in a report dated January 12.

“We could see the benefits of falling inflation on other sectors, particularly those that have been experiencing high-cost inflation," says Morningstar’s Field.

"Consumer segments could be in for a rough earnings season. Consumers have been struggling with the rising cost of living for the last couple of years but throw in elevated mortgage rates and suddenly wallets are really stretched, meaning cutbacks wherever possible.”

Companies Lowering Market Expectations

Confronted by cautious consumers, uncertainty in global trade, macro-economic challenges in large economies like China, and a weighty political agenda, it seems plausible companies will be cautious regarding their 2024 outlook.

Some might even try to lower market expectations, according to BNP Paribas Exane’s strategists.

“Macro indicators such as global export volumes are now suggestive of EPS estimates nearing a bottom. In Europe though, PMIs are still soggy, and there is a risk of managemen using 4Q earnings to kitchen sink 2024 estimates”, they wrote in a report dated January 10.

Yet investors are already quite cautious about European equities, which currently trade on a P/E multiple of 12.7 times, compared to a historical average of 14 times.

It will be interesting to see how guidance for 2024 will be digested. Given the low bar of market expectations, combined with hope of lower inflation and declining interest rates, European equities could have some room to rise.

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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About Author

Jocelyn Jovene

Jocelyn Jovene  is Senior Financial Analyst and Senior Editor for Morningstar France.

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