The Dow (^DJI 0.19%) was unchanged today (okay, it fell six hundredths of one percent), while the broader S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.37%) declined almost a quarter of a percentage point.
The blue-chip Dow index got no help from software stalwart Microsoft (MSFT 0.87%), which disappointed investors after the bell, announcing earnings-per-share in its fiscal first quarter of $0.53 per share versus a consensus estimate of $0.56. The company also missed on the top line, booking revenue of $16.0 billion, while analysts were expecting $16.4 billion. Still, the 8% year-on-year revenue decline was overstated due to a deferral of $1.4 billion in revenue, most of it in the Windows group. The company expects to recoup that revenue next quarter with the launch of Windows 8, one of the key developments Microsoft investors must watch, according to Motley Fool technology analyst Charly Travers. Are Microsoft shares a buy or sell? To get Charly's assessment, click here to order his premium report, and you'll also receive a full year of coverage.
Taking a step back from individual results, how are companies doing as we near the end of the second week of the earnings season? According to Bloomberg, nearly one-fifth (98) of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings so far. The upshot? Aggregate year-on-year revenue growth of 1.9%, and earnings-per-share (EPS) growth of 2%. (Note that once you remove financials, which are volatile, the EPS growth rate falls to 0.6%.)
If the four-fifths of S&P 500 companies that have yet to report perform equally well, then we will avoid an "earnings recession" in the third quarter. The current estimates for operating EPS is $25.02, which would equate to a 1% decline year-on-year. That, in itself, would be something of an achievement; but, as I have written on several prior occasions, the earnings number I am most focused on is the one for 2013 (estimates and actual, once we get there). I expect estimates to come down, which could put downward pressure on stock prices.