Stocks declined last week, but both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) remained close to all-time highs. The indexes are in solidly positive territory for the year with just a few trading days left in 2020.

Several widely owned stocks will announce operating results over the next few days, including FedEx (NYSE:FDX), General Mills (NYSE:GIS), and Nike (NYSE:NKE). Below we'll take a look at the key trends that might send their stocks moving this week.

Someone with armful of packages ringing doorbell

Image source: Getty Images.

FedEx's holiday outlook

Investors have pushed FedEx's shares up in anticipation of what could be a solid second-quarter report on Thursday afternoon. The package delivery giant's fiscal first quarter showed robust sales gains thanks to rising e-commerce demand during the pandemic. But Wall Street was just as excited to see surging profitability as management's investments in the delivery network started paying off.

FDX Operating Margin (Quarterly) Chart

FDX Operating Margin (Quarterly) data by YCharts

In September, executives suggested that the 2020 holiday season could bring a volume peak unlike anything that FedEx has experienced to date. Look for management to update that outlook while discussing how they plan to maintain service levels over the next few weeks. If the delivery giant can handle the stress, it's likely to enjoy surging earnings for the wider fiscal 2021.

General Mills' cost trends

After snapping up the stock following COVID-19-related declines in April, investors turned cautious about General Mills in recent weeks. That twist sets up an important earnings report on Thursday.

The snack and cereal giant had mostly good things to say in its last quarterly outing. Sales gains remained in double-digit territory even though they slowed from the stay-at-home peak in the prior quarter. General Mills generated healthy operating profit and cash flow, too.

The main questions heading into this week's report involve the company's expense burden as it works to remove manufacturing and supply chain bottlenecks. Investors are also keen to learn whether General Mills can hold on to the new customers it has won while the pandemic depressed eating-out demand. Its surest path to that success will be a steady stream of innovative product releases, paired with efficiency gains that allow it to keep prices down while maintaining profit margins.

Nike's growth rebound

Nike announced an encouraging operating rebound in late September, and investors are expecting the chain to advance that positive narrative on Friday. Sales in fiscal Q1 returned to growth in parts of Nike's global empire, including Europe and China. But they were slightly lower in the U.S. as retailing activity continued to recover from the earlier shutdowns. Look for that segment to begin expanding again as the chain's overall sales rise about 2% compared to last quarter's 1% decline.

Executives warned of a few short-term challenges that would pressure the business in fiscal Q2, including an inventory overhang. Yet their broader outlook called for gross profit margin to soon begin climbing again -- and keep rising for years. Friday's report should add context to that outlook, even if CEO John Donahoe and his team will be looking out toward an unusually volatile holiday shopping period ahead.

 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.