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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 23:41 GMT
US profits take a dive
Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Profits have taken a tumble as Wall Street has rebounded
David Schepp

Perhaps the best thing that could be said for the third quarter profits season in the US is that it is over.

With industries ranging from manufacturing to high-tech to the service sector reporting loss after loss, investors have all but given up on the year.

But even as one company after another stepped up to report less-than-stellar earnings, the stock market moved sharply higher since its record plunge on 17 September.

"The expectations or the estimates had been lowered so much that they were easily attainable," says Art Hogan, market strategist for Jeffries & Company.

"So if you look at the earnings versus the estimates, it was pretty darn good," he told BBC News Online, adding this was first three-month period in a long time when the market was focused on the issues outside of Wall Street.

Terror attacks

Following the terror attacks on the US on 11 September, during one of the final weeks of the third quarter, companies grabbed the opportunity to report bad news and blame it on the attacks.

"This was the quarter you could miss," Mr Hogan says.

Prior to 11 September, estimates for the companies contained within the Standard & Poor's 500, a broad measure of US stocks, called for a decline of 13% in profits during the third quarter, says Larry Wachtel, analyst at Prudential Securities.

After the attacks, he told BBC News Online, projections called for a drop of 22%.

"So you can see how things were coloured completely by the last couple of weeks of September," he says.

Looking ahead

With the US now in the middle of the fourth - and final - quarter of the year, expectations are calling for further drops in profits, with an expected drop of 15%.

Analysts say, however, that is to be expected given the shaky economy, ongoing anthrax scares and the armed conflict in which the US finds itself.

"We've been through an economy that was heading down and then fell off the cliff on [11 September], says Annette Geddes, managing director at MD Sass Investors Service.

"We've had a couple of spurts of patriotism, and then everything rolled over again."

She says Wall Street will find fewer bright spots as it looks out over the economic horizon.

"We're moving into a phase where everybody's on edge and fearful," Ms Geddes told BBC News Online. "And that's certainly going to impact things."

All this has not affected the mood of Prudential Securities' Wachtel. "We're taking [corporate profits] in stride," he says.


Terror's impact

Signs of a slowdown

Rate cuts

Analysis

Key players

FULL SPECIAL REPORT
See also:

31 Oct 01 | Business
US economy shrinks
26 Oct 01 | Business
US consumers remain wary
24 Oct 01 | Business
Fed sees US economy struggling
26 Sep 01 | Business
US economy in freefall
31 Aug 01 | Business
Greenspan: Consumers driving economy
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