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Fourth-quarter US earnings estimate improving quickly

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. fourth-quarter earnings estimate is improving sharply, with about 80% of reports so far beating analysts' expectations including ones this week from Meta Platforms and Amazon.com, according to LSEG data on Friday.

Overall S&P 500 earnings now are expected to have increased 7.8% in the fourth quarter from the year-ago quarter.

That is up from a 6.4% estimate on Thursday and 4.7% at the start of the year, the data showed.

Results are now in from nearly half of the S&P 500 companies, including most of the big tech-related names. The latest estimate is based on actual results and forecasts for the rest.

An average of 76% of companies beat earnings estimates in the previous four reporting periods, based on LSEG data.

Meta Platforms late Thursday reported revenue and profit that beat expectations on robust ad sales in the holiday shopping period. The company also issued its first dividend.

The report followed disappointing news from some other high-profile names.

Alphabet earlier this week reported holiday-season advertising sales below expectations and projected higher spending on items such as servers to power artificial intelligence. Last week Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned sales growth would slow this year.

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)