We ran some simulations back to 1955 and found that historically, what is normal is that every basis point of nominal GDP growth typically generates 2.5 percentage points of corporate earnings growth. The consensus sees $76 of operating EPS for the S&P 500 next year, which compares to a likely $56 stream in 2009. In other words, that would imply an expected 36% profits boost this year. That in turn would require a 14% increase in nominal GDP, which is basically impossible. Okay — a spurt that strong was last posted in 1951, so let’s be fair. It’s a 1-in-58 event. In the past 75 years, there were a grand total of six when profit growth topped 30%, and guess what? That pace of profits required, on average, 10% growth in nominal GDP. And that last happened 25 years ago. Either way you slice it or dice it, achieving the consensus profit forecast is an extremely low-odds scenario.
Meanwhile, the consensus basically sees 4% nominal GDP growth for 2010, which would suggest a 10% profit rise in 2010, which would imply a solid but somewhat less exuberant $62 EPS call for the year. Remember that this time last year the consensus was at $77 operating EPS for 2009 and we got $56 — what saved the market was the Geithner & Bernanke show.
--- Rosenberg, 1/5