Payments, plates, and Palm readers will decorate the week that lies ahead.

The new trading week kicks off with Altera (Nasdaq: ALTR) providing its mid-quarter update. Expectations are already hosed down for the tech bellwether. Despite a Citigroup analyst profit upgrade on Tuesday, Wall Street sees Altera posting only a profit of $0.16 a share, half of what it earned a year ago.

VeriFone Holdings (NYSE: PAY) punches in on Tuesday. After a good track record of beating estimates, the payment processing equipment manufacturer has posted lower than expected earnings in two of its last three quarters, so it's only natural for investors to fret over the company's chances of nailing Mr. Market's $0.15 a share profit target.

Let's go upmarket on Wednesday, as Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM) and Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL) report. One sells high-end kitchen staples and home furnishings. The other sells new homes in upscale developments. This isn't a good time for sellers of big-ticket items, though Toll Brothers is slated to post a narrower loss from last year's poor showing.

Is there life after Circuit City? Analysts see consumer electronics retailer Conn's (Nasdaq: CONN) earning $0.41 a share in its latest quarter, just shy of the $0.47 a share it earned a year ago. Life should be better for the survivors who can eat into the liquidated Circuit City's market share, but consumers also need to warm up to spending again to make the most of Circuit City's demise.

Kitty litter, anyone? Oil-Dri (NYSE: ODC) closes out the trading week. Oil-Dri is perceived as a defensive stock. As bad as the economy gets, cat owners aren't going to put up with stinky litter boxes. Let's see if the stock lives up to the recession-resistant hype.

I normally cut off this weekly column at Friday, but Saturday happens to be the day that Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM) Pre hits the market. Bears see it as a Hail Mary pass for a shot at renewed relevance. Bulls see it as the high-tech gadget to eat into the iPhone and BlackBerry markets. It's going to be interesting to watch.

Until next week, I remain,
Rick Munarriz

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look forward. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.