Underlying earnings for the S&P 500 reached record highs in the second quarter of ’22. However, this earnings power is unevenly distributed among the components of the S&P 500. Roughly 50% of the underlying earnings for the S&P 500 come from just 41 companies representing 8 Only % of the number of companies in the index but more than 40% of the market capitalization of the index. A deeper analysis reveals that these companies are trading at lower valuations compared to the rest of the index, despite generating disproportionately more underlying profits.

In a volatile market, investors can find relative safety in the most profitable companies in the S&P 500. Below, I identify four sectors (excluding the telecom services sector where there are only five companies in this sector) that have 50% or more of their total underlying earnings concentrated in Only five companies. I also reveal where investors put appraisal premiums and discounts in the wrong places.

Investors underestimate strong profits

In Figure 1, the top 41 companies, based on underlying earnings, are trading in the S&P 500 with a base earnings price (P/CE) of 16.4. The rest of the index is trading with a P/CE ratio of 22.7. Of course, stock prices depend on future Earnings, so one could argue that these valuations simply reflect the waning expectations of the 41 companies with the highest underlying earnings. However, with rising inflation and global economic turmoil putting pressure on even the most profitable companies, the market appears to be mispricing the potential earnings of some S&P 500 companies.

I calculate this metric based on the S&P Global (SPGI) methodology, which summarizes the individual values โ€‹โ€‹that make up the S&P 500 index of market capitalization and underlying earnings before using them to calculate the metric. Price as of 9/2/22 and financial data by calendar 2Q22.

Out of the top 41 primary winners, 25 receive an attractive rating or better, indicating an attractive risk/return trade-off. I have marked many of these high-income earners as Long Ideas, including Microsoft
MSFT
Alphabet (GOOGL), JPMorgan Chase
JPM
Johnson & Johnson
JNJ
Verizon (VZ), Walmart
WMT
Qualcomm
QCOM
and Ford (p).

Figure 1: Earnings Disparity and S&P 500 ูˆุชู‚ูŠูŠู… Valuation

Below, I zoom in on earnings per sector and company level to highlight where valuations don’t align properly with earnings strength.

Uneven distribution of the power of the energy sector profits

When I look under the surface, I see that core earnings for the energy sector, at $160.7 billion in the second quarter of '22, are largely driven by a handful of companies.

ExxonMobil (XOM), Chevron Corporation
CVX
ConocoPhillips (COP), Occidental Petroleum Corp
OXY
The Petroleum Marathon
MPC
It makes up 65% of the segment's core earnings and represents the largest percentage of core earnings from the five largest companies in the sector across any of the S&P 500 segments.

In other words, 22% of companies in the S&P 500 energy sector generate 65% of the segment's underlying profit, which is down from 67% in the TTM ending in the first quarter of '22.

Figure 2: Five companies that generate 65% of the core dividend yield of the energy sector

Senior employees seem to be cheaper compared to the rest of the energy sector

The five companies that make up 65% of core earnings for the energy sector trade with a P/CE of just 9.2, while the other 18 companies in the sector trade with a P/CE of 11.4.

According to Figure 3, investors pay a premium to some of the lowest earners in the sector, while the more profitable companies (Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum, and Marathon Petroleum) are trading at a discount.

Figure 3: Profit Disparity and Energy Sector Rating S&P 500

To determine future earnings growth expectations, look at the economic price-to-book value (PEBV) ratio, which measures the difference between market expectations of future earnings and the no-growth value of a stock. In general, the PEBV ratio for the energy sector during 9/2/22 is 0.6. Three of the top five stocks in the energy sector are trading at or below the PEBV for the sector as a whole. Additionally, each of the five companies has grown core earnings of 20% or higher at compound annual growth rates (CAGR) over the past five years, which also illustrates the disconnect between current valuation, past earnings, and future earnings.

Technology: Deep research reveals a few big winners

When I look under the surface, I see that the technology sector's core earnings, at $475.1 billion, are unevenly distributed, although slightly less heavy than the energy sector.

Apple company
AAPL
Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta Platforms (META), and Visa
Fifth
It constitutes 60% of the core earnings of the sector.

In other words, 6% of the companies in the S&P 500 tech sector generate 60% of the segment's underlying profit, which is down from 61% in the TTM ended Q1 of '22. I also find that 10 companies, or 13% of the S&P tech sector companies, are 500, making up 72% of the segment's core earnings.

Figure 4: Only a few companies dominate the profitability of the technology sector

Not paying a premium to the highest-earning technology sector companies

The five companies that make up 60% of the technology sector's core earnings trade with a P/CE of 23.2, and the other 75 companies in the sector trade with a P/CE of 23.8.

According to Figure 5, investors can get the most profitable companies in the technology sector at a slight discount, based on the price-to-CE ratio, to the rest of the technology sector. You have featured three of the top employees, Alphabet, Microsoft and Intel
INTC
Like Long Ideas and argue that each deserves an excellent rating due to its large related scope, strong cash generation, and diversified business operations.

Figure 5: Earnings disparity and valuation of the S&P 500 technology sector

Overall, the tech sector's PEBV ratio during 9/2/22 is 1.6. Two of the top five earners trade below PEBV for the public sector. In addition, all five companies have grown core earnings at a double-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past five years, which also illustrates the disconnect between current valuation, past earnings, and future earnings.

Base materials: deeper digging reveals the most important and heavy nature of the sector

When I look beneath the surface, I see that the core materials sector's earnings, at $62.1 billion, are unevenly distributed, albeit less than the energy and technology sectors.

Nucor . company
NEW
The Dow Corporation.
daw
LyondellBasell Industries
LYB
and Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and Linde PLC
flexible
It constitutes 51% of the core earnings of the segment.

In other words, 19% of companies in the S&P 500 core materials segment generate 51% of core earnings for the segment, which is down from 53% in the TTM ending in the first quarter of '22.

Figure 6: Five companies dominate the profitability of the basic materials sector

Fundamental earnings analysis is based on TTM data collected for the components of the sector in the measurement period.

Basic materials sector companies are trading at a huge discount

The five companies that make up 51% of the core earnings of the basic materials sector trade with a P/CE of 8.6, while the other 21 companies in the sector trade with a P/CE of 16.5.

According to Figure 7, despite generating more than half of the underlying profits in this segment, the big five companies account for only 36% of the market capitalization of the entire segment and trade at a P/CE ratio of almost half of the other firms in the segment. Investors are putting a premium on lower earnings and underestimating capital allocation to companies in the sector that generate the highest underlying earnings through the TTM ending in the second quarter of '22.

Figure 7: Profit variance and valuation of the basic materials sector S&P 500

Overall, the PEBV ratio for the basic materials sector during 9/2/22 is 0.8. Four of the top five (Linde being the exception) earners trade less than the public sector PEBV. Additionally, three of the five companies have grown their core earnings at a double-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past five years. One company (LyondellBasell) grew at a compound annual growth rate of 7% and Dow has no five-year history due to its formation in 2019. This strong historical earnings growth rates illustrate the gap between current valuation, past earnings, and future earnings for these industry leaders.

Real estate: digging deeper reveals the most important and heavy nature of the sector

When I look under the surface, I see that underlying earnings for the real estate sector, at $22.4 billion, are unevenly distributed, albeit lower than the previous sectors.

Weyerhaeuser Company
wye
prologies
PLD
American Tower (AMT), CBRE Group
CBRE
and Simon Property Group
SPG
It constitutes 51% of the core earnings of the segment.

In other words, 17% of companies in the S&P 500 real estate sector generate 51% of the segment's underlying profit.

Figure 8: Five companies dominate the profitability of the real estate sector

Fundamental earnings analysis is based on TTM data collected for the components of the sector in the measurement period.

Real estate companies are trading at a huge discount

The five companies that make up 51% of the underlying earnings of the real estate sector are trading with a P/CE of 25.5, while the other 24 companies in the sector are trading with a P/CE of 56.2.

According to Figure 9, despite generating more than half of the core earnings in this segment, the top five companies account for only 32% of the market capitalization of the entire segment and trade with a P/CE ratio of more than half of the other firms in the segment. Investors are putting a premium on lower earnings and underestimating capital allocation to companies in the sector that generate the highest underlying earnings through the TTM ending in the second quarter of '22.

Figure 9: Earnings inequality and the valuation of the S&P 500 real estate sector

Overall, the real estate sector's PEBV ratio during 9/2/22 is 3.4. Four of the top five (American Tower being the exception) trade lower than the public sector PEBV. Additionally, four of the five companies have grown their core earnings at a double-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past five years. These strong historical earnings growth rates illustrate the gap between the current valuation, past earnings, and future earnings of these industry leaders.

Diligence Matters - Superior Fundamental Analysis Provides Insights

The dominance of core earnings from a few companies, along with the disconnect in the valuation of these higher-income earners, explains why investors need to conduct proper due diligence before investing, whether it's an individual stock or even a basket of shares through an ETF or syndicated financing.

Those who rush to invest in the sectors of energy, technology, basic materials or even real estate and do so blindly with passive money are allocating a large number of companies with less profit power than the entire sector might indicate.

Disclosure: David Trainer, Kyle Guske II, Matt Shuler, and Brian Pellegrini receive no compensation for writing for any particular stock, style, or topic.