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More than 2,000 companies have reported earnings so far this season, which ends next Thursday when Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) reports. So far this season, the spread between the percentage of companies raising guidance minus those lowering guidance has been -2.9 percentage points. This means that more companies have lowered guidance than raised guidance, and if it holds in negative territory, it will be the seventh straight quarter with a negative guidance spread.

As shown in the chart below, the spread this season is much better than it was in the prior three quarters. If we hear positive things from companies next week before earnings season ends, the spread could even get a little better. That said, it's pretty amazing that companies have had a negative slant regarding the future for nearly two years now, and over this time period the market has soared. What would the market be doing if companies were actually optimistic? Who knows, with so much attention paid to Bernanke and his easy money policy.

(click to enlarge)

Source: Guidance Spread Negative But Inching Higher