Three numbers to start your day:

Fourth-Quarter Income for S&P 500 Companies is Expected to Drop 2.6%

—from the year before. That might seem like a big decline, but it probably isn’t as bad as it sounds.

First of all, companies have bought back a lot of stock over the last year. That means each remaining share is entitled to a larger portion of the company’s income. And that means the S&P 500 companies’ earnings per share could actually have fallen only 0.4% last quarter.

Another thing is that companies tend to beat analysts’ estimates for their earnings. If they did so at their historical rate last quarter, S&P 500 earnings per share could end up 0.5% higher than a year ago. That’s according

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