We're in the thick of earnings season right now. Several big companies have already provided their latest quarterly updates, and more are on the way. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on July 19, 2021, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and Motley Fool contributor Keith Speights talk about several reports that investors should pay particular attention to this earnings season.

Corinne Cardina: Earning season is back. What companies, trends, all that good stuff, what should we be watching this earning season?

Keith Speights: Well, obviously, if investors own stocks, watch the earnings for the stocks that you own. But I'll mention several companies that I'll personally be watching closely this earnings season. Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) is one that really stands out to me. I see Intuitive Surgical as a great pandemic recovery play. But just how strong that recovery will be with COVID still a major concern, especially with the rise of the delta variant, that's a big question mark, so I'll really be watching to see what Intuitive Surgical has to say.

I'll also watch companies that generate significant revenue from COVID-19 -- for example, COVID-19 testing and vaccines. I would throw Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) in there, I would throw Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) in the mix, those are great examples. What these particular companies say -- and don't say -- about their outlook for the rest of the year could be telling in just how concerning the rise of the delta variant and other coronavirus variants might be.

Last but not least, I would pay attention to health insurers. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) already beat expectations with its Q2 results. I'm interested to see how CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) looks with its Q2 earnings. The company is interesting in particular to me because it combines several healthcare businesses: It's a big health insurer with Aetna, it's a huge pharmacy retailer, and it's a leading pharmacy benefit manager.

The growth of Medicare Advantage, I think, has been driving the fortunes of health insurers in particular, and I expect that will continue into Q2 and beyond. With any earning season, always look for the big surprises, both positive and negative. They can help identify trends early on that could make a difference in how stocks will perform in the future. So watch out for the surprises and I'm sure there will be plenty this earning season.

Cardina: That's right, and we'll be here to talk about them as they come up.

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.