The current edition of Standard and Poor's S&P 500 Earnings and Estimates spreadsheet features a pretty remarkable chart, showing how the future expectations for the index's operating earnings per share for the second quarter of 2012 has changed from 18 April 2011 through 8 March 2012.
In the chart, we can see that the future for expected earnings in 2012-Q2 isn't as bright as it used to be, as the forecast future operating earnings per share for the S&P 500 is more than $2.00 per share less than it was when it peaked just seven months ago.
What a difference that seven months can make!
But those are operating earnings per share - what about actual (or "As Reported") earnings per share? The sum of all the actual earnings that the 500 companies that make up the S&P 500 index will collectively record in their financial statements, divided by their collective number of shares outstanding?
Here, we've been periodically sampling the data from S&P's Earnings and Estimates spreadsheet to create the following chart showing the expected future for S&P 500 earnings per share at various snapshots in time, from 2009-Q1 through 2013-Q4.
In this chart, we can see that the future for the S&P 500's earnings per share in 2012 really lost steam between June and October 2011, closely matching what S&P has recorded it its chart showing the expected future for operating earnings per share.
We'll see just how closely the future for earnings per share plays out as compared to what S&P predicts!
Standard and Poor. S&P 500 Earnings and Estimates. [Excel Spreadsheet]. 8 March 2012.