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Five Things to Watch Out For in First-Quarter Earnings

Corporate earnings look poised to stay strong in the first quarter, but watch these five indicators to gauge how rosy the picture will be in the coming quarters.

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First-quarter earning season kicked off this week with  Alcoa (AA) and Google (GOOG) delivering more than respectable results. But will this trend play out for the rest of the season? If the recent past is any guide, the answer is yes. Despite the malaise elsewhere in the economy, corporate America is on a pretty impressive run. Deep cost cuts made during the recession, global footprints, and a rebound in demand in many industries have pushed profitability to very high levels.

There is no immediate sign that this trend is poised to dramatically turn around this quarter. We've had very few warnings from management teams that previous guidance was wildly optimistic, and the first quarter's macroeconomic indicators seem to point to a continued expansion. But even if the headline numbers remain robust, there could still be hints in earnings reports that the next few quarters may not be quite as rosy for investors. Here are five areas I'll be keeping a close eye on when examining the reports in the coming weeks.

Bearemy Glaser does not own (actual or beneficial) shares in any of the securities mentioned above. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.