Most people saw last week as the official opening of earnings season for the opening quarter of 2015, but the pace of releases will kick into high gear this week. In particular, several financial stocks within the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) will give their latest results; with the energy sector and other areas remaining weak, market participants hope banks and other financial institutions can pick up the slack and provide some earnings growth to support the broader market.
High hopes for money makers
Most investors expect financials to provide some of the biggest earnings-growth prospects in the market this quarter. The consensus growth estimate of 8.2% would put financials in second place for growth this quarter (behind healthcare), according to data from FactSet, and the subsectors of banks and diversified financial services providers within the broader financial industry should post double-digit percentage growth.
Much of the growth will come from giant Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), which is scheduled to report on Wednesday. Investors are looking for BofA to reverse last year's loss with earnings of $0.29 per share, despite an expected pullback in overall revenue. If you take Bank of America's growth impact out of the equation, the broader sector's growth would drop to less than 1%.
You can see investors' mixed views by looking at banks one by one. Tuesday's releases, for instance, could bring both good and bad news from major players in the industry. Wells Fargo's (NYSE:WFC) earnings per share could fall by 7%, as the pace of mortgage lending continues to decelerate from its low-rate-cycle peaks. However, the return of volatility to stocks and other financial markets bodes well for JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE:JPM), trading operations, and that is a big part of why shareholders hope to see earnings growth of more than 8% from the year-ago quarter.
Improving results from proprietary trading should also contribute to growth among companies reporting later in the week. Both Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Dow component Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) are to report on Thursday, and anticipated earnings gains of 13% and 5%, respectively, will rely heavily on their success in taking advantage of better conditions for their trading units.
A strong economy is also supporting some financial companies. Card pioneer American Express (NYSE:AXP) earnings, for instance, will likely inch up slightly from year-ago levels, even as the company reels from the loss of its status as exclusive card issuer for Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST). A healthy consumer economy with rising spending and creditworthy members should make it easier for American Express to move forward amid challenges from competitors.
As earnings ramp up, you'll want to keep a close eye on the financial sector this week. With relatively high expectations from investors, any downward surprises could make for an ugly beginning to the season.