Investors wondering about the strength and earnings power of U.S. businesses in 2003 have some new data to plug into their forecast machines.
First, some good news. The companies in the S&P 500 index that have thus far reported fourth-quarter earnings have shown an average year-over-year profit growth of nearly 10%, and the earnings have been 3.7% higher than expectations, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But a Reuters story, concentrating on the future rather than the past, is pessimistic about the forecasts from these and other companies. Microsoft
Two separate Bloomberg stories paint an even gloomier picture. First, declining revenue has caused telecom giants such as AT&T
Second, there seems to be little chance that business software sales will pick up in 2003, affecting companies such as Oracle
Unlike vague references to consumer sentiment and a possible war in Iraq, it helps to pay attention to such industry-specific data... especially if you're invested in businesses that supply the companies involved.