Stocks rose more than 1% last week as first-quarter earnings season started to wind down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.36%) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.41%) both pushed deeper into record territory and are up 8% and 7%, respectively, so far in 2017.
Investors can still expect volatility around a few businesses that are announcing quarterly numbers in the days ahead. Here's what to watch for in the reports coming from Five Below (FIVE -0.56%), Palo Alto Networks (PANW 1.64%), and Lululemon (LULU 5.37%) this week.
Palo Alto's growth pace
Cybersecurity software specialist Palo Alto Networks will announce its fiscal third-quarter earnings results on Wednesday. Shares are down sharply since the company's last report revealed surprisingly weak sales growth. In early March, CEO Mark McLaughlin cited execution challenges around closing big security deals, which led to lower revenue than Wall Street expected.
The team promised to address the issues quickly by adjusting their marketing approach and slowing their product development plans. Yet management forecast another quarter of slowing growth as Palo Alto Networks' expansion pace falls to below 20% from the prior-quarter's 26% pop.
It's possible the software specialist will outperform that conservative outlook, especially given that rival FireEye recently announced healthier operating trends. Shares could remain under pressure, though, if McLaughlin and his team don't show progress at raising product-development productivity and at improving the effectiveness of their sales and marketing processes.
Lululemon is set to post its quarterly results on Thursday, and Wall Street isn't expecting much good news from the athletic apparel specialist. Despite strong sales growth last quarter, shares sank after the company warned of a slow start to fiscal 2017. In fact, Lululemon's guidance calls for comparable-store sales growth to decelerate to a low-single-digit pace from the prior year's 5% boost .
In addition to revenue trends, investors will be paying close attention to inventory levels and profitability this week. Many retailers -- particularly those in the sports-apparel segment -- have reported slowing customer traffic and an increased reliance on sales and promotions.
If Lululemon was hit with the same negative issues, gross profit margin may begin falling again after posting a solid rebound in the last few quarters. That, in turn, would threaten bottom-line earnings, since the company only recently returned to net income growth following three years of declines. Management is currently targeting a slight profit uptick in 2017, but may change that forecast later this week.
Five Below's expansion plans
Youth-apparel-retailer Five Below posts results on Thursday that should be highlighted by strong sales growth. Due mainly to a quickly expanding store base, Wall Street is expecting revenue to jump 20%, to $230 million. Five Below paired a similar revenue boost last year with increased profitability as operating income rose 23%. "Our performance in 2016 once again illustrates the strength, consistency and broad appeal of the Five Below model," CEO Joel Anderson told investors in late March.
Its growth pace slowed in the holiday quarter, though, as comparable-store sales gains slipped to 1%. Anderson and his team projected a similarly modest gain in the current quarter, and for the full year, too. Yet executives are optimistic that their recent expansion into the massive California market will lay the foundation for accelerating future growth. The retailer aims to add 100 stores to its overall base this year compared to last year's launch of 85 new locations.