It's October, so which companies will be bringing the tricks and which ones will be bagging the treats? More earnings are on the way.

Economists tapping the snooze bar on their bedside alarm clocks will be up early to hear how factory orders stacked up in this country for the month of August. It's an important gauge given the fact that manufacturing demand is often an early indicator of consumer confidence in the economy. Unimpressed? You can always go back to sleep, but then your cereal bowl brimming with Data Krispies will get all soggy.

There are three ways to approach fast-food specialist Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM). The first is to walk up to it and tell it that Yahoo! called and it wants its Y and exclamation point back. The second way is to sneak up on it from behind and wonder what kind of board would sign off on such a ridiculous name. That is, of course, until you realize that the company's previous name was TRICON -- a limp and tacky abbreviation for the three (TRI) concept (CON) operator.

The final way to approach Yum! Brands is from above. Things will look different from there as the company behind Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC oversees a quick-service dining empire spanning 33,000 locations worldwide. Yes, that's more than units McDonald's (NYSE:MCD). Yes, the company will be announcing its fiscal third-quarter results today.

Better crops through science? Monsanto (NYSE:MON) definitely thinks that it's possible as it is aiding farmers with bioengineered harvests. Yet its earnings growth has been purely organic as the agricultural giant raised its profit outlook last month. So it's perfectly fitting that the company's signature herbicide is called Roundup, because that's exactly what the company will be doing as it wraps up the 2004 fiscal year on what should be a strong note.

The monthly chain-store sales data will be released today, giving us a chance to reflect on the winners and the losers of the back-to-school shopping season. While the trend is likely to echo this summer's showings with specialty retailers like Aeropostaleflying high and others like Hot Topicturning up cold, there's a reason why we count those beans every month. Anything can happen in the fickle world of mall fashion.

On the earnings front, while I may never understand why folks need to buy Froot Loops by the barrel or pickled eggs by the truckload, buying in bulk is big business and Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST) is the country's leading warehouse club. Shaving costs with minimal overhead and passing on those savings to its customers has helped Stock Advisor recommendation Costco and rivals like Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) Sam's Club win over traditional supermarket shoppers. Costco stores were busy during its fiscal fourth-quarter as same-store sales were up a hefty 8%. Today those numbers will be fleshed out with the company's actual earnings report.

What is the world's most valuable company? No, it's no longer Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). These days it is actually General Electric (NYSE:GE) that sits on top of the market-cap throne. Between light bulbs, appliances, financial services, broadcasting, and even aircraft engines, it may save time to go into what GE doesn't do instead. However, there is one thing that it will definitely do today and that is post its fiscal third-quarter profits. Wall Street is looking for flat earnings growth -- as it has all year -- so let's see if GE can turn things around and bring good things to life.

Until next week I remain,

Rick Aristotle Munarriz

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that Yum! is a dumb name for a fast-food giant, but then again, he also thinks that "finger lickin' good" isn't a very savory pitch to move fried chicken. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.