Standard & Poor's estimated first quarter operating earnings for S&P 500 companies of $17.82 per share, said David Guarino, spokesman for the agency. The earnings are the second-highest ever, compared with $17.95 per share in the prior quarter. The first quarter marked the 12th consecutive quarter the S&P 500 posted double-digit, year-over-year operating gains, Mr. Guarino said. Earnings are 12.3% higher than the first quarter of 2004. Mr. Guarino said 85% of S&P 500 companies had reported earnings as of Thursday.
"The first quarter starts off with what S&P believes will be another banner year for earnings," said Howard Silverblatt, S&P market equity analyst, in a statement. "If earnings pick up a bit in the second quarter, we could be looking at a continuance of double-digit gains. For 2006, we are looking for continued growth at the 10.2% level."