Where have all the bulls gone?

January was a dud, and investors appear to be getting jittery. Bearish months will do that, even if the market also dipped last January before breaking into a huge rally several weeks later.

Is the pessimism warranted? On Friday, I went over seven stocks that analysts see posting lower quarterly profits this week than they did during the same period a year ago.

It's not that bad, though. There may be some companies going the wrong way, but there are also plenty of other public companies that are finding ways to grow in this somewhat dicey environment.

I was a pessimist on Friday. It's my turn to be the optimist now. Here are seven companies that analysts see posting healthier bottom lines this week.


Latest Quarter EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter EPS

MasterCard (NYSE:MA)



Visa (NYSE:V)



Aflac (NYSE:AFL)






Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM)



Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM)



Clorox (NYSE:CLX)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top. MasterCard and Visa are the giant credit card marketers. They have persevered through the credit crunch, since they're not the ones left holding the bag with delinquent borrowers. MasterCard and Visa simply market the plastic, collecting transaction fees along the way. The issuing banks are the ones charging stifling interest rates to offset the credit risks.

Are MasterCard and Visa entirely immune from the credit debacle? Of course not. Tightening credit standards may slow the revolution of swiped plastic. However, the world continues to take baby steps into becoming a nearly cashless society. MasterCard and Visa are sitting pretty on that front.

Aflac is more than just a series of annoying duck commercials. The American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus is a major provider of supplemental health and life insurance policies. It's a pretty steady business, and not just because analysts see Aflac's quarterly profits growing 17% after today's market close.

Cisco is a leader in networking equipment. It should be one of the early winners in an economic recovery. Companies that have spent the past two years scaling back on IT spending may now be more receptive to installing new routers or state-of-the-art communication systems. CEO John Chambers was on CNBC last week, promising to add thousands of new jobs this year as companies begin ramping up their IT budgets.

Communications chip maker Broadcom is also projected to inch ahead on the bottom line. Don't let the “semiconductor” tag frighten you. The company's Wi-Fi chips are finding their way into leading smartphones, portable media players, and even Blu-ray players.

Yum! Brands is the parent company behind KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Fast-food chains have logically held up fairly well during the recession. You would be surprised at the heavy Taco Bell bag you can walk away with after forking over just a few bucks. Yum! has also been more than a bit player in China, where KFC has been a rock star for years.

Finally, we have Clorox. The consumer-staples giant is about more than just its namesake bleach and cleaning products. This is also the company behind Glad trash bags, Brita water filters, and the Armor All rubdowns that keep your car shiny. These may seem like indispensable products, but many penny-pinching consumers have turned to generic store brands. Nevertheless, Clorox appears to have survived the downturn with surprising levels of brand loyalty.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
These aren't the only companies expected to post year-over-year gains this week. Several companies have either found ways to grow during the recession or have simply cut enough corners to show improvement on the bottom line.

This doesn't mean that investors can rest easy. The bad news is that these companies are expected to post improving results. The optimism is already baked into their share prices. This does make it easier for them to slip ... but why begin worrying about the companies we aren't supposed to be worrying about?

If analysts are doing a good job modeling their profit targets, we'll be just fine.

Which of the many earnings reports due out this week are you looking forward to? Share your enthusiasm in the comments box below.

Aflac is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Clorox is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. It will give you one less reason to worry this week.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz prefers to look at the bright side of life -- and strife. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He 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.