With the holidays closing in, maybe there's still time to spread a little seasonal cheer.

I recently reviewed seven bellwethers that report this week and are expected to post lower earnings than they did a year earlier. Thankfully, there are also plenty of exceptions.

If you know where to look, the next few days can also be an uplifting experience. Let's go over seven publicly traded companies that are expected to stand tall this week. 


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Steak n Shake (NYSE:SNS)



Best Buy (NYSE:BBY)



Discover Financial (NYSE:DFS)









Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM)



Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top.

Steak n Shake is part of the maligned casual-dining industry, but it's at the value-priced end with its affordable burgers and milkshakes. Comps through the first nine months of its fiscal year have risen by 2.2%, and last year's losses are giving way to profits this year. The chain may be simply bouncing back from a horrendous 2008, but it's at least heading in the right direction.

Best Buy doesn't have Circuit City to worry about anymore, though the consumer-electronics leader certainly has to protect itself against cutthroat online retailers and dirt-cheap discounters. Best Buy's report will go a long way toward easing -- or hastening -- concerns over an economic turnaround.

Credit-card issuer Discover is a surprising name to see on this list. Credit card balances have fallen in this country for 13 months in a row. Consumers are resisting the urge to swipe plastic, and they're growing to appreciate the joys of avoiding stiff financing charges by paying off their smaller bills with every statement. Even a Discover-backed study finds that holiday shoppers plan to curb their spending by 15% this year. However, when your results are pitted against a loss during the same quarter a year ago, clearly the bar is low enough to clear.

Oracle is the enterprise-software giant run by serial acquirer Larry Ellison. His critics can knock his ego, but the guy has an uncanny knack of snapping up smaller rivals at accretive prices and consistently meeting or beating Wall Street expectations.

Palm and Research In Motion are smartphone companies at different chapters in their popularity cycles. Research In Motion's BlackBerry remains an industry standard, while Palm is trying to drum up a niche audience with its Pre and Pixi handsets. Both are pegged to deliver year-over-year bottom-line improvements on Thursday, though that means higher profits for Research In Motion and narrower deficits for Palm.

Finally, we have Rite Aid dramatically trying to erase its red ink. The drugstore chain has been able to hold off exchange delisting -- or at the very least going through a reverse split -- by getting its stock back over a buck apiece this year.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
Investors in these seven stocks have a right to be excited. They have chosen well in buying the companies that are improving their bottom lines during this brutal economic downturn.

But this isn't Slam Dunk City. The market assumes that the news will be positive on these equities, and that baked-in optimism can be problematic if the financials don't live up to the hype. The expectations are high, but these seven stocks wouldn't have it any other way.

Some other reads to get you through the week:

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Best Buy and Discover Financial are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy, Steak n Shake, and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz prefers to look at the bright side of life -- and strife. 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.