An earnings estimate is the estimate of a firm’s earnings per share (EPS) for the upcoming quarter or fiscal year and is reported by an analyst. Earnings estimates are developed by analysts who are working for investment research firms.
Using the earnings estimate, analysts can evaluate the cash flow and find the approximate value of the firm. They research a firm’s operations and assess management guidance, along with other information to form an estimate of the firm’s future earnings per share.
Investors use the earnings estimates to predict the growth potential of the firm and to make trading decisions.
An earnings estimate is a firm’s expected future earnings per share, as estimated by professional analysts.
Investors rely on the earnings estimates to analyze the stocks of a firm and to make buy or sell decisions.
Consensus earnings estimates are used as a standard to evaluate a firm’s performance.
Understanding Earnings Estimates
A consensus earnings estimate is the average estimates of market professionals covering a public firm. It is used as a standard for evaluating the performance of the firm.
When a firm reports earnings that are different from the consensus earnings estimates, it is called earnings surprise. Public firms need to submit quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) within 40 days of the end of a financial quarter.
For most firms, the financial quarters may be the same as the calendar ones. Earnings surprises can be positive or negative. If the firm manages to beat the earnings estimate, it is called a positive or upside surprise. If the firm fails to reach the earnings estimate, it is called a negative surprise.
It’s been found that the stocks of firms with substantial positive earnings surprises tend to perform above average, and the stock prices with substantial negative earnings surprises perform below average.
Firms manage their earnings to make sure that they do not miss earnings estimates. Firms that consistently beat earnings estimates are said to perform better than the market.
Therefore, some companies provide forward guidance to set the expectations low. The forward guidance results in a lower consensus estimate than the probable earnings. As a result, the firm consistently beats the consensus earnings estimates, and the earnings surprises become less surprising.
Revisions in Earnings Estimates
Market analysts may revise earnings estimates to reflect the changes in the expectations of the company’s performance in the future. It occurs in cases the economic conditions look better than expected or during the higher-than-expected sales of a new product.
Revisions in earnings estimates lead to adjustments in price in the following manner:
Shares tend to perform better than average when earnings estimates are adjusted upward substantially by 5% or more.
Shares of firms with downward adjustments show sub-standard performance.
Impact of Earnings Estimates on Stock Prices
Earnings estimates are an important component to consider while analyzing and selecting stocks of firms. They are the quantitative views of estimations, and prices are driven by changes in the expectations.
Firms with high earnings estimates tend to underperform, as it becomes difficult for the firms to meet the high estimations of the market. Conversely, firms with low earnings estimates tend to perform better than anticipated.
Consensus earnings estimates are reflected in the stock prices. If a stock is highly recommended, the basis of such a recommendation will be the earnings estimates, which should be significantly above the current option.
CFI is the official provider of the global Commercial Banking & Credit Analyst (CBCA)™ certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:
Take your learning and productivity to the next level with our Premium Templates.
Upgrading to a paid membership gives you access to our extensive collection of plug-and-play Templates designed to power your performance—as well as CFI's full course catalog and accredited Certification Programs.
Already have a Self-Study or Full-Immersion membership? Log in
Access Exclusive Templates
Gain unlimited access to more than 250 productivity Templates, CFI's full course catalog and accredited Certification Programs, hundreds of resources, expert reviews and support, the chance to work with real-world finance and research tools, and more.