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谈上市公司的预期管理:盈利能超预期,往往因为预期太低

Mary Romano 2019年05月08日

似乎对于很多公司而言,盈利高于预期这不过是因为他们之前把预期定得太低。

让我们来聊聊预期管理。

表面上看,第一季度企业收益激增。

根据路孚特(Refinitiv)今天发布的数据,到目前为止,公布了第一季度业绩的229家公司中有77%收益高于预期。

从Facebook到星巴克再到亚马逊,各行各业的公司本周公布的业绩都超出了市场估计,让投资者相信美国经济运行良好。再加上美国经济增长的数据——本季度增速快于预期,年化增长率达3.2%,标普500指数和纳斯达克指数再创历史新高似乎理所当然。

但这些都是表象,而且似乎对于很多公司而言,盈利高于预期这不过是因为他们之前把预期定得太低,超过预期几乎是板上钉钉的事情。虽然预期管理的做法从华尔街刚起步的时候就有了,但似乎现在各大公司都在郑重其事地使用这种手段。这种盈利超过预期的情况,“到底是因为预期过低还是市场环境更好?你必须要回答问题”,TIAA银行全球市场总裁克里斯·加夫尼说。

去年第四季度股市大幅下挫,再加上全球经济增长放缓、美国利率上调等可怕晦暗的市场前景,许多公司降低了对2019年的预期。“消极的导向和调整更加更引人注目,哪怕这不过是正常现象。”加夫尼说,“当时悲观情绪严重,看不到太多的乐观态度。”如果对一些利润超出预期的公司进行深入研究,会发现结果本身没看上去那么美好。

高盛集团(Goldman Sachs Group Inc.)本月早些时候“击败了”对盈利的预测。但根据CNBC的数据,该公司收入下降了13%至88.1亿美元,低于分析师预估的89亿美元。CNBC表示,康卡斯特(Comcast)公司盈利也超过了华尔街的预测,但其收入为268.6亿美元,低于路孚特调研中分析师预估的272亿美元。

哪怕是第一季度高高兴兴地“击败”了华尔街预估值的公司也不一定会感到乐观。FactSet的数据显示,第一季度,标普500指数公司中有79家公司发布了消极的收益指导,而2018年第四季度为71家。5年的平均数是74。美国银行美林证券分析师的研究结果显示,公司财报电话会议中提及“更好”或“更强”的次数与“更差”或“更弱”之间的差额是2016年第一季度以来的最低水平,而且“提及乐观情绪的次数减少了”,这是个悲观的迹象。

不过,投资者似乎会把所有的惊喜都看得很重。总体而言,到第一季度末,摩根大通的分析师在一份报告中写道,截至报告期末,标普500指数成分公司应该因为“利润优于原先担心的数值”收获4%至5%的盈余惊喜以及2%至3%的利润增长。

以上种种,都是关于期望管理。(财富中文网)

译者:Agatha

Talk about managing expectations.

From the looks of it, corporate earnings surged in the first quarter.

So far, 77 percent of the 229 companies that reported have posted better-than-expected earnings result, according to data by Refinitiv published today.

Companies across industries–from Facebook Inc. to Starbucks Corp. to Amazon.com Inc.–posted results this week that beat estimates and gave investors confidence that the U.S. economy is in good shape. Taken together with today’s U.S. economic growth figure, which expanded at a faster pace in the quarter than expected, at a 3.2 percent annualized rate, it’s no wonder this week the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq touched record highs.

But scratch the surface, and it appears that many of those earnings surprises were a result of companies managing expectations down so far that beating them was almost a certainty. Though this is a game as old as Wall Street itself, it’s being played in earnest right now. Are these earnings wins, “because of the lower expectations or a result of a better environment for companies? That’s the question you have to ask,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA Bank.

Many companies lowered expectations heading into 2019 after the stock market’s swoon in the fourth quarter and over fearful prospects of a global growth slowdown and higher U.S. interest rates. “The negative guidance and revisions were much more dramatic even though it’s such a normal occurrence,” said Gaffney. “There was a lot of pessimism and not a lot of optimism.” And dig deeper into a few companies that beat expectations, and the results themselves don’t look too rosy.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earlier this month ‘beat’ estimates on earnings. But revenue dropped 13 percent to $8.81 billion, below analysts’ $8.9 billion estimate, according to CNBC. Comcast Corp. also surpassed Wall Street’s forecasts on earnings but posted revenue of $26.86 billion, lower than the $27.2 billion expected in a Refinitiv survey of analysts, CNBC said.

And even companies that cheerfully ‘beat’ estimates in the first quarter weren’t necessarily feeling too upbeat. In the first quarter, 79 companies in the S&P 500 issued negative guidance versus 71 in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to FactSet data. The five-year average is 74 companies. And in a pessimistic sign, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts’ research showed that mentions of “better” or “stronger” versus “worse” or “weaker” on company calls were tracking the lowest since the first quarter of 2016, and “mentions of optimism have waned.”

Still, investors seem to be heavily weighting any positive surprises. Overall, by the end of the first quarter, J.P. Morgan & Chase & Co. analysts wrote in a report that S&P 500 companies should post a 4 percent to 5 percent earnings surprise “on better than feared margins” and profit growth of 2 percent to 3 percent by the end of the reporting period.

It’s all about managing those expectations.

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