Stocks posted solid gains last week, as both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by almost 3 full percentage points. Entering the ninth month of the year, the S&P is up 17% and the Dow has gained 13% so far in 2019.
The peak of second-quarter earnings season has passed, but investors have yet to hear operating updates on a few big-name stocks. Below, we'll preview the upcoming reports from three of those companies, lululemon athletica (LULU 0.82%), Palo Alto Networks (PANW -1.91%) and American Eagle Outfitters (AEO 3.05%).
Lululemon's holiday outlook
Many growth stocks have been hit hard by recent market swings, but Lululemon avoided the August carnage. Yet its 50% price spike so far in 2019 creates high stakes for the apparel specialist's upcoming earnings report.
On Thursday, Lululemon is likely to announce continued robust sales growth. Revenue shot higher by 20% last quarter, after all, to blow past management's guidance. Drivers supporting more growth in Q2 should include its new product releases along with a booming digital sales channel that increased 35% last quarter.
Its impressive streak of market-thumping growth will have investors looking for any signs of an impending slowdown heading into the seasonally critical second half of the year. Other trends to watch include costs, which executives predicted will rise due to tariff rate increases. Looking further out, CEO Calvin McDonald might discuss broader initiatives like international expansion and how the moves will support their aggressive five-year growth plan through 2023.
Palo Alto Networks' profitability
The cybersecurity industry has a bright future as more data moves online, and that outlook has contributed to investor optimism about Palo Alto Networks' business. The company's cloud-based software portfolio helped sales rise by 28% in the previous quarter, with deferred revenue, or contracts that have yet to be booked, also rising at about the same rate.
Yet investors are worried about slower gains ahead, given management's projection for a 22% sales increase this quarter. Wall Street is also concerned about implications of the U.S.-China trade war, which threatens to hurt Palo Alto's hardware segment. Clarity around those two questions -- in addition to the company's new fiscal-year forecast -- will determine whether the stock rallies this week and returns to positive territory for 2019. Palo Alto will announce its results after the market closes on Wednesday.
American Eagle's customer traffic
Investors have soured on American Eagle's stock in recent months following a disappointing fiscal first quarter. The apparel retailer surpassed first-quarter targets on both the top and bottom lines, with comparable-store sales rising 6% following a strong 9% spike in the prior-year period. However, shares dropped as Wall Street focused on a slight decline in gross profit margin, higher inventory levels, and a cautious outlook for the second quarter.
We'll find out on Wednesday whether American Eagle's sales met management's forecast for a low-single-digit gain. Investors will be just as concerned with profitability and inventory trends, because those metrics should show how well the company is positioned ahead of the critical holiday shopping crush. Weak sales growth, plus steady or declining gross profit margins, would imply a tough second half of the year ahead. Healthy customer traffic and limited promotions, meanwhile, could set up the beaten-down stock for a nice rally ahead.