In general, good news has been in short supply of late. But when it comes to third-quarter corporate earnings reports, optimists’ cups runneth over.

Q3 earnings surprises 11-16-09

According to the European strategy team at Morgan Stanley, more than twice as many companies on its watchlist posted profits that beat analysts’ forecasts (148) than missed them (65). Banks, in particular, soared above analyst forecasts more often than the overall company average. Insurers also beat forecasts more often than not, but lagged the overall average.

Of course, companies sometimes go to pains to talk down future prospects in order to add gloss to results—and goose share prices—when they subsequently surpass forecasts. It may be wise to temper one’s expectations about the predictive power of data about expectations.

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