Earnings season is coming. Run for your lives!

I don't need to tell you that the economy is still in a funk, and that many of the companies in your own portfolio are struggling these days.

Notice that I said companies, and not stocks, because there is a difference. Stocks have been rallying since mid-March, but the fundamentals haven't caught up to justify some of their gains.

You will see this truth unfold next week, when several beloved bellwethers are expected to post lower earnings than they did a year ago. Let's go over a few of the blue chips and seemingly recession-proof companies that have generated gloomy bottom-line forecasts from analysts for next week. Some of the names may surprise you.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM)



JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)



Nokia (NYSE:NOK)









Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)



Mattel (NYSE:MAT)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Several companies will likely post lower earnings next week, but these are just a few of the names that really jump out at me.

Yum! Brands is the parent of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut -- low-cost eateries, for the most part. Have you seen their ads lately? Taco Bell is pitching several menu items at $0.79, $0.89, and $0.99 apiece. KFC and Pizza Hut are both advertising their $5 meals, and mocking what other chains offer for a fiver in the process. These chains should be luring in a growing population of penny-pinchers. Unfortunately, Mr. Market doesn't see this logic bailing out Yum! Brands' bottom line.

JPMorgan Chase is more than just another broken banker with an investment-banking twist. It's supposed to be the best of breed, the top dog, the cat's meow, and the lion king. Alas, it seems that even this beast has a thorn in its paw.

Despite all of the BlackBerry and iPhone mania going 'round, Nokia is still the largest wireless -- and smartphone -- company in the world. According to our own poll last week, it's also the smartphone stock that our readers deem the best investment in its field. I don't know about that. At least the BlackBerry and iPhone makers are improving their bottom lines these days, while Nokia is projected to earn just a third of what it rang up a year earlier. 

Cintas is the leading provider of workplace uniforms. This would seem like a crummy business as unemployment creeps higher, but let's take a closer look. "We have grown 39 consecutive years, through all economic cycles," pitches the company's investor-relations landing page. Still, it's going to be hard to keep that streak going to 40.

Intel is another name that one wouldn't expect to be doing well, but it's also the tech giant behind the Atom chips that power most netbooks, which were the hot sellers of the holiday season. Wireless carriers are subsidizing netbooks at major retailers, to the point at which stores are practically giving them away. Unfortunately, cheap netbooks are also powered by low-margin chips.

Johnson & Johnson is a standout in the all-weather drug sector, so this should be the biggest shock on the list. The forecasted weakness may be coming from J&J's consumer products, as thrifty shoppers turn to cheaper store-brand alternatives to Listerine gargles, Band-Aid bandages, and Visine eye drops.

Finally, we get to Mattel. The toymaker is now two years removed from toxic-toy recalls that crushed its reputation. It should be bouncing back these days. After all, aren't toys supposed to be the ultimate recession-proof commodity? We'll skimp on stuff for ourselves before we deny our kids their playthings. Not this time, it seems. Say it ain't so, Elmo!

Why the long face, short seller?
So now are you worried? If there's an upside to this grim list, it's that investors are already braced for the worst. I'm not unearthing guesstimates that folks can't readily find at any free financial portal.

If anything, the real surprise with these seven reports would be positive ones. It won't take much for J&J or Yum! Brands to actually post year-over-year gains in profitability.

The more I think about it, the less worried I become.

Some other reads to get you through the weekend:

Cintas is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Intel and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Johnson & Johnson is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders whether his contrarian heart will ever be happy. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.