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At this time, the estimated growth rate for the third quarter 2008 stands at 0.8%. On April 1, the estimated growth rate for third quarter 2008 was 17.3%. On July 1, the estimated growth rate was 12.6%.

If the final growth rate for third quarter 2008 is 0.8%, it will mark the first quarter the S&P 500 has recorded earnings growth since the second quarter of 2007 (7.7%).

Since the start of the quarter, most of the decrease in the third quarter 2008 growth rate (to 0.8% from 12.6%) can be attributed to downward estimate revisions in the Financials sector.

At the sector level, the Energy (60%) sector is expecting the highest earnings growth in Q3 2008. The financials (-49%) and Consumer Discretionary (-7%) sectors are expecting the weakest earnings growth.

(Ed’s note: John Butters is director, U.S. earnings for Thomson Reuters Proprietary Research Group. To see the full research on the outlook for third quarter earnings expectations, download the PDF here: