Earnings for the 500 largest U.S. companies; the S&P 500 are reported in two ways. First is reported or GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) earnings. This number is what is reported to the SEC. The second is operating or non-GAAP earnings. Companies often report both operating or non-GAAP earnings along with required GAAP earnings. The non-GAAP earnings are what analysts follow because it adjusts for one-time events and is said to more actually reflect their business.
Reported or GAAP earning for 2015 were about $87 (the total of all 500 companies in the index), depending on how and when they were measured. This compares to about $102 for 2014, and about $100 for 2013.
Operating or non-GAAP earning for 2015 were about $100, depending on how and when they were measured. This compares to about $113 for 2014, and about $107 for 2013.
In 2015, the major U.S. corporations earned substantially less. Much, but not all, of this was due to the decline in the price of oil hurting the energy companies.
The S&P 500 started the year at 2,059 and closed at 2,044 paying out an approximate 2.15% dividend for a total return of about 1.4%.