There may have been uplifting news on the employment front this morning, but don't be surprised if you're still not seeing a lot of high-fiving in the break room.

The economy still has some serious ground to make up, and you can look no further than next week's batch of earnings reports. Despite several months of rallying share prices, several companies are still behind where they were a year ago.

Let's go over a few of the blue chips and seemingly recession-proof companies where analysts see the arrows pointing down on the bottom line next week. Some of the names may surprise you.


Latest Quarter EPS

Year-Ago Quarter




Kroger (NYSE:KR)



Focus Media (NASDAQ:FMCN)



AeroVironment (NASDAQ:AVAV)



Vail Resorts (NYSE:MTN)



Titan Machinery (NASDAQ:TITN)



Hooker Furniture (NASDAQ:HOFT)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
There will be several companies posting lower earnings next week, but these are just a few of the names that really jump out at me.

Let's start with Costco. Warehouse clubs should thrive in economic downturns. Bargain-seeking shoppers turn to bulk-sized deals, and Costco is typically the teacher's pet in this space. Well, not this time.

Kroger is another surprising sinker. We have to eat, and the grocery-store chain doesn't have to contend with annual memberships like warehouse clubs. Penny pinchers also turn to cheaper store labels over brand names, and that works just fine for the supermarkets. This is as close as you can get to an "all-weather" industry, yet it's still raining.

Focus Media is one of China's leading display advertising companies. It runs an enviable fleet of ad-spouting television monitors in high-traffic areas, elevator poster frame advertisements, and watches over a sizeable online advertising empire. The advertising market has had its struggles, but many see China holding up a lot better than the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it's not adding up that way on Focus Media's bottom line.

AeroVironment makes unmanned aircraft that the military uses for recon missions without putting military personnel in harm's way. Regardless of where the sentiment is on defense spending, one would think that investments in "smart" defense strategies would remain a priority.

Vail Resorts obviously operates several ski destinations in Colorado, among other areas. We're only now heading into peak season there, so next week's quarterly report is supposed to be a dog. There just isn't a lot of demand to hit snow-less slopes in early October! However, Vail should be doing a better job of containing its costs during the off-season.

Titan Machinery was a darling after going public almost two years ago. The agricultural retailer was on fire as farming was seen as a critical industry during the early stages of the global recession. How things have changed.

Finally, we have Hooker Furniture. This obviously isn't the best time to be in the home décor business, but Hooker's stock has more than doubled off its springtime lows. Earnings growth isn't following the capital appreciation.  

Why the long face, short seller?
These reports aren't likely to be pretty. Many of these stocks are market darlings in seemingly healthy sectors, to boot. A warehouse club that isn't stocking up on the bottom line? A Chinese eye magnet that isn't making the most of the economic boom in the world's most populous nation? A maker of gee-whiz military gear that actually protects soldiers waning in demand? This isn't going to be an attractive quarter, no matter how neatly stacked those Kroger store shelves may be.

There is a silver lining, though. Investors are already braced for the worst with these reports. If there is an upside to this grim list, it's that lower profitability is already baked into next week's reports. It actually opens the door for unexpected surprises.

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