This quarter's rankings are not straightforward due to the impact of charges related to tax reforms in Q4'17 (which some firms reported as losses) and benefits from the tax reforms recorded in Q4'18. Most of the percentage rankings are obvious but the top four are a little unusual. Those companies' Q4'17 all had losses, so the increase in profits percentage-wise for Q4'18 are huge, so we ranked them based on size of dollar-amount increase. (Photo: ShutterStock)
WORST: 12th place. WELLS FARGO -- Tim Sloan, President and CEO of Wells Fargo (Photo: Bloomberg)
11th place. WADDELL & REED — Earnings $46.5 million, UP 56% | EPS $0.60, UP 67% | Advisor headcount 1,060, DOWN 307. | Waddell & Reed headquarters in Shawnee Mission, Kansas.
10th place. JP MORGAN — Earnings $7.07 billion, UP 67% | EPS $1.98, UP 85% | Wealth advisor headcount 2,865, UP 60. | Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan. (Photo: Bloomberg)
9th place. LPL FINANCIAL — Earnings $120.3 million, UP 88% | EPS $1.36, UP 97% | Affiliated financial advisors 16,109, UP 899. | LPL CEO Dan Arnold.

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8th place. RAYMOND JAMES — Earnings $249 million, UP 109% | EPS $1.69, UP 111% | Advisor headcount 7,815, UP 278. | Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly.
7th place. MORGAN STANLEY — Earnings $1.53 billion, UP 138% | EPS $0.80, UP 208% | Advisor headcount 15,694, DOWN 18. | Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. (Photo: Bloomberg)
6th place. AMERIPRISE FINANCIAL — Earnings $539 million, UP 205% | EPS $3.76, UP 227% | Advisor headcount 9,931, UP 55. | Ameriprise headquarters in Minneapolis. (Photo: Bloomberg)
5th place. BANK of AMERICA — Earnings $7.28 billion, UP 207% | EPS $0.70, UP 250% | Merrill Lynch advisor headcount 14,796, DOWN 21. | BofA CEO Brian Moynihan. (Photo: Bloomberg)
4th place. STIFEL FINANCIAL — Earnings $114.1 million vs. a loss of $2 million | Dollar-amount increase: $116.1 million | EPS $1.38 vs. -$0.06 | Advisor headcount 2,301, UP 57. | Stifel CEO Ronald Kruszewski. (Photo: Bloomberg)

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3rd place. UBS — Earnings $696 million vs. a loss of $2.32 billion| Dollar-amount increase: $3.02 billion | EPS $0.18 vs – $0.65| Advisor headcount-Americas 6,850, UP 28. | A UBS bank entrance sign (Photo: AP)
2nd place. GOLDMAN SACHS — Earnings $2.54 billion vs. a loss of $1.93 billion | Dollar-amount increase: $4.47 billion | EPS $6.04 vs.-$5.51 | Investment management sales of $1.70 billion, UP 2%. | David Solomon, president and CEO of Goldman Sachs. (Photo: Bloomberg)
Best: 1st place. CITIGROUP — Earnings $4.3 billion vs. a loss of $18.9 billion| Dollar-amount increase: $23.2 billion | EPS $1.64 vs. -$7.38 | Private bank revenue $797 million, UP 3%. | Citigroup headquarters in New York (Photo: AP)

(Related:  12 Best & Worst Broker-Dealers: Q3 Earnings, 2018)

The final earnings season of last year came after a volatile time in the markets and was a bit of a let down.

The good news is that nearly 70% of companies reported actual EPS above estimates — including Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. The bad news is that that figure is below the 5-year average, according to the research group FactSet.

“In aggregate, companies are reporting earnings that are 3.3% above the estimates, which is also below the 5-year average,” according to John Butters, senior earnings analyst.

Overall, FactSet estimates that the average year-over-year earnings growth rate for S&P 500 companies in the fourth quarter is 13.1% — making it the first time the index has not reported earnings growth above 20% since Q4’17. Still, these results represent the fifth-straight quarter of double-digit earnings growth for the index.

The financials sector is the only sector that had  a year-over-year decline in revenues in Q4’18 at -5.6%, as trading declined along with asset flows and total asset levels. The diversified-financial services subsector had a large drop, -53%, with other subsectors posting modest gains.

For full-year 2018, financial firms had earnings growth of about 22%. In Q4’18, it was 8%, but in Q1’19, this figures could drop to -2%.

Financial firms generally reported big year-over-year jumps, since Q4’17 results were negatively affected by one-time charges tied to tax reforms. In Q4’18, on the other hand, they announced one-time benefits.

Looking ahead, FactSet says its analysts predict a decline in overall S&P 500 earnings for Q1’19 of 3.2% and low single-digit growth in earnings for the second (0.3%) and third (1.9%) quarters of 2019.

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