These three companies just didn't live up to Mr. Market's expectations last week. Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell.  But digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down.

Today, it's a retail and advertising bonanza that spans two continents and three Fools.

Keep your eye on the ball
Our first miss this week comes from Focus Media Holdings (NASDAQ:FMCN), a Chinese multimedia advertising expert. Wall Street expected non-GAAP earnings of $0.44 per American Depositary Share, but Focus fell short of that target by a penny. On the other hand, the result landed at the high end of management's own guidance range, and revenues came in at $151 million -- $16 million above the official forecast.

My Foolish colleague and good friend Rick Munarriz pointed out that high expectations were baked into Focus' stock price, which may explain why the shares ended the week 11% lower than they began it Monday morning. Currently, the shares have fallen roughly 7% since the earnings announcement. Still, it's hard to fault management, considering that all of the results ended up as good as advertised -- or much better.

Today, Focus manages some 95,000 digital advertising displays and 163,000 old-school billboards and poster frames around four of China's largest metropolitan areas. That's the company's bread and butter, and the conversion to digital media continues at a frenetic pace.

It's still a much smaller operation than American counterpart Clear Channel Outdoor (NYSE:CCO). But despite Clear Channel's slower growth in a more mature market, the two trade at similar P/E ratios in the mid-40s. No wonder Focus rates a solid four CAPS stars, while Clear Channel has to settle for three.

Just short
Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFMI) is up next, missing analyst profit expectations of $0.30 per share by $0.06. Costs tied to store openings, closings, and remodelings caused the shortfall, as the high-end grocer works to integrate former rival Wild Oats into its operations.

The $4.7 million in relocation costs nearly equaled the $5.4 million on that line for all of fiscal 2006, and the $4.2 million of interest payments on the loans used to finance the Wild Oats deal explains the entirety of the earnings miss. Now it's up to Whole Foods to prove that the deal was $747 million well spent. Management says that it'll take up to two years for any acquisition to "fully land," but this one is tracking a bit ahead of schedule.

The quarter showed slower comps growth than usual, at just 8.4%, though Foolish colleague Alyce Lomax points out that grocery rivals like Safeway (NYSE:SWY) would slander their own grandmothers for organic growth like that. Whole Foods shares fell 12% last week, and it's tough to find anything 12% worse about the company's fundamentals than what we saw last Monday. Do your homework and act accordingly, Fool.

Wide left
Target (NYSE:TGT) is another retailer that would love to have comps in the Whole Foods league. Saddled with a barely inflation-beating 3.7% same-store growth, the red bull's-eye reported earnings of $0.56 per share, while the analyst consensus pointed to $0.62 per share.

That miss broke an 11-quarter streak of hitting the Street's, um, targets. Management pointed to slow sales of high-margin items like clothing and home goods, while less-profitable product lines like groceries and hardware did well for themselves. One day after this disappointing report, the stock had lost 4% of its value.

And then it was Black Friday to the rescue -- for Target more than most. While competitors like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) bounced back by a couple of percent each on reports of happy shopper throngs at the stores, Target careened off to an almost 6% one-day revival.

We'll have to wait and see how well that shopping surge holds up over the holidays. The apparel-related tedium makes me a bit queasy, though -- Target sits in the lower midrange of fashion affordability, and if its customers are defecting to Wal-Mart and dollar stores for their clothing needs, it could be one of the first real signs of cautious consumer spending. A collapse here could spell impending doom for higher-end retailers in the coming periods. This market barometer bears watching closely, whether you own Target stock or not.

Over and out
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which ones are stuck in the mud for real.

Further Foolish reading: