4 Dates to Circle in January

January is here, and so is 2013.

Now that we can move on from the fiscal cliff worries and the end of the Mayan calendar, let's start looking out to some of the events that will unfold in January.

Jan. 10
Supermarkets used to be all-weather defensive stocks. Folks have to eat, and supermarkets are there to ring up the edibles.

However, after a few bankruptcies of traditional grocers and the growth stock sizzle of organic specialists, supermarket investing is no longer for the squeamish. Volatility is also pressing an industry that has historically delivered crummy net margins with little wiggle room for error.

SUPERVALU (NYSE: SVU  ) reports next week, and it has plenty to prove. The stock took a dive last year after the grocery store operator eliminated its once-juicy dividend, closed down some stores, and generally disappointed investors. The grocer is still profitable, but investors will want to see if the company will bounce back.

Jan. 14
Zynga
(NASDAQ: ZNGA  ) has a credibility problem.

The social gaming leader shut down 10 of its poorly performing games in December, and at least one more game is going away this month.

Indiana Jones Adventure World stopped taking in new players in November, and a notice is already pointing to the game shutting down for all players on Jan. 14.

The Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) game shows 570,000 active monthly users. That may seem like a big number, but it's a pittance when compared to Zynga's more popular games with tens of millions of active monthly players.

Zynga will still have to face the music for all of the games that it is shutting down. Folks who have invested time and in some cases money into these games are going to want to know how they can get their time and money back.

There was a time when Facebook and Zynga seemed to be joined at the hip. Facebook was counting on Zynga for a good chunk of its nonadvertising revenue, but these days Zynga has faded while the last bearish analyst on Facebook changed his tune earlier this week.

Jan. 23
There normally isn't a lot of buzz behind a McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) report, but Ronald isn't clowning around these days.

The world's largest restaurant chain stunned investors when it posted a decline in comps for the month of October. It was the first year-over-year slip in same-unit sales at Mickey D's since 2003. Comps did bounce back in November, but not before the company revamped its menu and asked franchisees to try to open on Thanksgiving Day.

Shares of McDonald's hit a 52-week low in November, and there isn't a lot of optimism heading into this month's quarterly report on Jan. 23. Wall Street sees flat earnings growth on a meager 1% uptick in revenue.

Wait. McDonald's isn't keeping up with inflation? McRib, don't fail the Golden Arches now.

Jan. 24
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) reports in three weeks, and Mr. Softy has more to prove than McDonald's.

This was supposed to be a breakout quarter for the company. Windows 8 hit the market. The Windows RT-powered Surface was supposed to rock the tablet world. The latest Windows Phone update was supposed to help Microsoft compete in a world overrun with iPhones and Android smartphones.

Well, most of the anecdotal evidence isn't very encouraging on any of those fronts.

Windows 8 may have had a healthy number of initial upgrades, but PC sales remain sluggish. Analysts have been scaling back Surface sales projections. As for Windows Phone, we're still living in a world where iOS and Android are the mobile operating systems of choice.

There's little reason to expect a good report out of Microsoft, though this will also be around the time when the more powerful Surface Pro tablet hits the market.

Give me more
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