5 Dates to Circle in December

December is here, and with it come fears of a country on the edge of a fiscal cliff, a shortage of hot holiday items, and a world without Twinkies.

Let's go over a few of the upcoming days to watch.

Dec. 4
This would seem to be a good time to be Big Lots (NYSE: BIG  ) . Everybody loves getting more bang for the buck, and Big Lots superstores offer closeouts, overstocks, and clearance bin prices.

Unfortunately for investors, Tuesday's quarterly report shouldn't be all that encouraging. Analysts see a rare loss out of the company on flat sales. The one thing making matters even worse is that Big Lots has come up short on the bottom line in its two previous quarterly outings.

Dec. 12
Investors may have cheered when Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) announced a special one-time dividend of $7 a share this week, but did it really have to take on $3.5 billion in new debt to bankroll the $3 billion in distributions?

Given the low-interest-rate environment, the market didn't seem to mind. Folks bidding up shares of Costco even overlooked that credit rating agency Fitch downgraded Costco's creditworthiness after the move.

Well, the warehouse club operator will have the perfect opportunity to explain its reasoning when it offers up its latest quarterly results a week from Wednesday. The financial results themselves should be solid, and analysts see revenue climbing 8% and profitability climbing twice as much.

Dec. 17
Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR  ) Redbox has been talking up its digital strategy since 2010 with little to show for it. Redbox's success in renting actual DVDs -- up 18% over the past year -- may have played a part in the company's slow-footed ways.

Earlier this year, it announced that it would team up with Verizon Wireless to offer Redbox Instant to roll out a streaming service by the end of the year. The RedboxInstant.com landing page has been static for months, suggesting that Redbox will miss another self-imposed digital deadline -- but that may not be the case. The Android Community website claims to have stumbled across the site's Help page before it was taken down. The page offered up a Dec. 17 date for the service to launch.

There were also some pricing details. The basic plan for $6 month will include unlimited access to the digital library. A plan at $8 a month also includes four disc rentals at a Redbox kiosk near you.

We'll see if this is how it all plays out. Coinstar has a lot of ground to make up in the digital space.

Dec. 20
You don't see too many earnings reports on the slate as the holidays close in, but investors will definitely want to tune in to hear what Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX  ) has to say.

The company provides payroll, human resources, and benefits outsourcing solutions for businesses that find it's more cost-effective to outsource than to handle in-house. The company's specialty makes this a great proxy for the economy in general. If Corporate America is hiring again and cutting more paychecks, you'll see in Paychex's numbers.

Analysts aren't holding out for much. They see revenue and earnings climbing a mere 5% over the prior year's quarter.

Dec. 31
Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) is another company facing a year-end timeframe for a new streaming service. The leading satellite-radio service is looking to enhance its digital offering by making customized radio the latest perk. It began offering on-demand streams of hundreds of its most popular shows this summer.

Sirius XM is still on track to get this done at some point in December. A month ago, it once again alluded to launching the Pandora-like music discovery streams in 2012 during its most recent quarterly earnings call.

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