I thought things were getting better. Credit card delinquency rates are down, and corporate profits, for the most part, are on the upswing. However, business headlines are still going on about derivatives and oil-spill liabilities.

We're seemingly in an improving economy, yet there are still plenty of companies posting lower earnings than they did a year ago. Let's go over a few of the pretenders that are expected to go the wrong way on the bottom line next week.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Steelcase (NYSE: SCS)



Carnival (NYSE: CCL)



Commercial Metals (NYSE: CMC)



Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX)



Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD)



ConAgra Foods (NYSE: CAG)



H&R Block (NYSE: HRB)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

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

Steelcase is a major player when it comes to corporate furniture. This should be one of the first manufacturers to benefit from an economic recovery. If companies are hiring again or investing in their offices, Steelcase should be a logical beneficiary. Unfortunately, it's projected to post a deficit on Monday, after having delivered a small profit a year ago.

Carnival is the leading cruise line. It's surprising to see this name on this list, since the company confidently bumped up its vacation prices earlier this year. The culprit here is probably those pesky fuel expenses, considering that Carnival reported an 80% spike in fuel costs in its previous quarter.

Commercial Metals is a steelmaker with a credibility problem. It announced last month that it was likely to at least match last year's $0.10-per-share deficit. Under the best-case scenario, it would break even. However, analysts have been slow to jack up their targets. Some of them may not be paying attention, but others realize that this company has burned them before. Commercial Metals posted sharply wider losses than the pros were expecting in each of the two previous quarters, and they don't want to get smelted again.

Paychex has wooed investors with its chunky yield and steady business for years, but the payroll giant is mortal. Wall Street is braced for marginally softer earnings this time. This isn't exactly a new development at Paychex, though. It has posted lower year-over-year profitability for six consecutive quarters.

Rite Aid is the drugstore chain that never entirely got over its accounting fraud scandal. Its stock has managed to stay above the $1 price barrier throughout the past 12 months, but growing deficits could send things spiraling down to the wrong side of the decimal point.

ConAgra Foods is the supermarket stocker of Healthy Choice frozen entrees, canned Chef Boyardee pastas, Hebrew National hot dogs, and even Slim Jim beef jerky. However, the maker of Egg Beaters is no world beater itself. It had posted three straight quarters of bottom-line growth, but the pros see a brief retreat next week.

Finally we have H&R Block delivering its seasonally potent tax-filing quarter. It should be a strong reporting period, but it will also fall just short of last year's quarter. I should also point out that the $2.09 a share that it put up last year was less than the $2.11 it earned two years ago.

Why the long face, short-seller?
These seven companies have seen better days. The market has rewarded many of these stocks with healthy gains over the past year, but they still haven't earned those upticks.

The good news is that Wall Street already expects these companies to deliver shrinking bottom lines. In other words, the bad news is already baked into the shares.

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

Paychex is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation and a Motley Fool Income Investor selection. 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. 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.