Smart investors know what's coming before it happens, or at least as much as they can at any rate. This week, we saw the Q4 2011 earnings season kick off with aluminum heavyweight Alcoa announcing its fourth-quarter results on the 11th. Especially with so many ongoing storylines facing investors, expect the scrutiny to reach epic proportions. With the stakes so high, investors will have to take extra care not to get too worked up during the frenzy. And with that, let's take a peek about which Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) company investors should watch in the week to come.
- Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) reports on Thursday, coming off a relatively flat 2011 performance. For the year the company fell 7%, leaving many wondering how the tech giant planned on tapping into emerging growth areas like mobile devices. This week at the Consumer Electornics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled its best attempt yet at a mobile operating system, highlighting its Windows Mobile OS in hardware partner Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) in its Lumia 900 smartphone.
- IBM (NYSE: IBM ) also announces its earnings this Thursday. The company performed strongly in 2011, returning 25% for shareholders, and for good reason. Having set the ambitious goal in 2010 to double its profits by 2012, the company appears well on its way. Over the past 12 months, the tech stalwart grew its revenue at 8.5%. Better still, the renowned dividend aristocrat also grew its payouts over 16.7%. It's this kind of execution that helped attract Warren Buffett to invest $10.7 billion into the firm.
- General Electric (NYSE: GE ) reports this Friday. It enters 2012 coming off a relatively flat 2011 performance. Over the past calendar year, the industrial bellwether's stock declined around 2%. The firm did do a good job preparing itself for the future. It made big investments into energy in 2011, most notably acquiring John Wood Group's oil well support segment.
Foolish bottom line
Here at The Fool, we always advocate investing for the long term. That means finding a set of stocks you trust to win over the long term and sticking with them through the occasional ups and downs. Keep in mind, all companies go through the occasional rough patch. No company is perfect. It's easy to get caught up in the frenzy that all too often accompanies earnings season.
It's at times like that where investors are best served, taking a step back and reassessing the actual impact -- either positive or negative. 2012 certainly promises to be an interesting year for investors, and investors will do well to be prepared as it begins. In that spirit, The Motley Fool recently compiled a research report detailing its Top Stock for 2012, selected by our chief investment officer. We made it absolutely free for our readers, so access your free report now.