When earnings season kicks into high gear, there can be little time to look at anything beyond the top and bottom lines.
The conference calls with financial analysts begin early in the day and run well after the U.S. markets have closed for the day. (Thank goodness for replays.) And when you've read one earnings news release, you've pretty much read them all. Only the numbers change.
Thursday was definitely high gear. Sixty-three companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index released quarterly financial results, as did 12 companies with headquarters in the Philadelphia area.
I looked at the results of 20 companies (no banks) either based in the region or with significant operations here that reported in the last two days. They range from the huge (AmerisourceBergen at $20.1 billion in quarterly revenue and Boeing at $19.4 billion) to the medium-size (Ametek at $827 million and Carpenter Technology at $540 million) to the small (Qlik Technologies at $79.2 million and InterDigital at $69.3 million).
Collectively, their revenue for the most recent three months was up 6.5 percent. Net income dropped 15.6 percent, entirely because of the 44 percent decline in quarterly profit for AstraZeneca P.L.C. Excluding what has become a shrinking pharmaceutical company, the other 19 enterprises reported a 5.7 percent increase in net income.
That's not too shabby, given the hand-wringing by many over a lack of demand in the U.S. economy and how it will affect corporate earnings, which have shown strong growth since the end of the recession.
Maybe spring is in the air, or maybe business really isn't too bad, but the descriptions by CEOs of how the quarter went seemed nearly giddy. At least, as giddy as highly lawyered corporate-speak tends to get.
West Pharmaceutical Services CEO Donald E. Morel Jr. called it an "exceptional first quarter, providing a terrific start to 2012."
Ametek CEO Frank S. Hermance said his industrial products company "achieved excellent results" and termed its cash flow "superb."
Shire CEO Angus Russell sounded very restrained in stating that his drug company "continues to perform strongly" after a 24 percent rise in product sales.
Even AmerisourceBergen CEO Steven H. Collis was "pleased to report very solid results" with revenue for the drug wholesaler up 1.6 percent, but profit down 1.1 percent.
Of the 20, just one reported a quarterly loss. Fast-growing Qlik Technologies, a developer of business-intelligence software, turned in a bigger net loss — $7.5 million — than last year's $5.1 million.
While half of the companies reported first-quarter profit that was higher than last year, those 10 had double-digit gains, led by Boeing's 58 percent increase to $586 million. After the market closed Thursday, Universal Health Services, a King of Prussia-based for-profit hospital company, reported a 13 percent increase in net income, thanks in part to largely favorable after-tax impacts of some agreements with federal and state regulators.
Not that there aren't challenges. Boeing, which employs about 5,500 at the Delaware County factory where it makes helicopters for the military, acknowledged the pressures from declining U.S. defense budgets.