Stocks made another run toward all-time highs last week, as both the S&P 500 (^GSPC 3.02%) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 3.10%) gained about 1%. The increase left indexes sharply higher on the year, up almost 20%.
Earnings reports are likely to send a few individual stocks moving over the coming trading days. Below, we'll take a look at the metrics that could cause volatility ahead for shareholders of Adobe (ADBE 3.98%), General Mills (GIS 2.38%), and Darden Restaurants (DRI -0.74%).
Adobe's recurring revenue
Adobe announces its latest results on Tuesday, and investors are expecting to hear good things from the software giant. A successful pivot to a cloud-based subscription selling model for its publishing tools has helped Adobe notch an impressive streak of sales growth lately, including last quarter's 25% spike. The company back in June credited a general "explosion of creativity" across businesses and consumers for helping power its expansion.
CEO Shantanu Narayen and his team are counting on this trend to support more strong gains ahead. Their forecast for the current quarter's sales sits at $2.8 billion, or 22% higher than the year-ago period. Beyond that broader top-line gain, investors will be looking for Adobe's annual recurring revenue metric to rise to over $350 million, which would be a strong indicator of healthy future cash flows. Ideally, the company can achieve these growth results while keeping operating cost growth to a minimum.
General Mills' organic growth
Packaged food specialist General Mills has sat out most of the stock market rally from the past decade as it struggled to adjust to consumer tastes moving toward healthier breakfasts and snacks. Yet investors are growing optimistic that a rebound is on the way, which could begin showing up in its earnings report on Wednesday.
General Mills' last quarterly outing didn't inspire much confidence. Sure, sales jumped 9% and adjusted operating profit improved by 5%. However, that growth was entirely due to newly acquired brands like the Blue Buffalo pet food franchise. General Mills' core business, anchored by brands like Cheerios and Yoplait, shrank 1%.
The good news is that the company's market share performance has improved in each of the last two years, culminating in stable positioning in fiscal 2019. This week, the company will kick off a new fiscal year that might finally return it to modest -- but positive -- organic sales.
Darden Restaurants' customer traffic
Things are looking up for Darden Restaurants heading into its fiscal first-quarter report on Thursday. The restaurant stock has trounced the market so far this year thanks to an impressive fiscal 2019 that saw sales rise nearly 3% at its existing locations. Those gains were powered by a 4% sales spike at Olive Garden and an increase of over 3% for LongHorn Steakhouse. Given that the broader industry struggled with declining customer traffic, these figures imply healthy market share growth for these chains.
Darden's initial fiscal 2020 outlook predicted comps will slow to between 1% and 2% over the next 12 months but that an additional 44 restaurant openings will allow overall sales to rise by about 4%. Investors will get an update on that early prediction on Thursday. Just as importantly, shareholders will find out whether Darden is still finding room to increase prices so that profitability continues inching higher at its core properties.