How bad were Canadian corporate earnings in the first quarter? According to National Bank Financial, blending reported earnings for companies that have already reported their results with estimates for those companies that have not, results in an ugly number: Earnings fell 41.5 per cent.
Utilities, for all their defensive qualities when economic times are tough, suffered the most: So-called blended earnings fell 62 per cent. Materials fell 58.8 per cent and energy stocks fell 50.1 per cent.
Information technology - a sector dominated by Research In Motion Ltd. - fared by far the best, with earnings up 54.4 per cent in the first quarter.
As for the second quarter, the earnings picture is still grim, with expectations for a 34.4 per cent slide. Energy, materials and utilities are again expected to bear the brunt of the earnings downturn, with earnings forecasted to fall 63.5 per cent, 52.4 per cent and 40.3 per cent, respectively.
Three sectors are expected to enjoy rising earnings, which is remarkable given the brutal earnings climate. Earnings for health care stocks should rise a slim 1.6 per cent. Telecom services should rise 4.2 per cent. And information technology will again lead the way, with a gain of 30.1 per cent.