There are inflation jitters in China, financial stability concerns in Ireland, and your kids want an iPad for Christmas.

We'll be diving into an important holiday shopping season by the end of this week, but you should face plenty of drama before the turkey gets carved.

Over the weekend, I singled out seven stocks projected to post lower year-over-year earnings this week. Thankfully, that's just one side of the story.

There's more good news than bad news on the earnings front. Between recessionary cost-cutting and general improvement from last year's depressed levels, several companies are in better shape now than they were a year ago.

Let's go over seven companies that analysts see posting healthier bottom lines this week.


Latest Quarter EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter EPS

CNinsure (Nasdaq: CISG) $0.30 $0.24
Gladstone Captial (Nasdaq: GLAD) $0.21 $0.20
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) $1.27 $1.14
La-Z-Boy (NYSE: LZB) $0.14 $0.12
Cracker Barrel (Nasdaq: CBRL) $0.91 $0.78
Medtronic (NYSE: MDT) $0.81 $0.77
Deere (NYSE: DE) $0.94 $0.23

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with CNinsure. The insurance intermediary sets up well-to-do residents in China's most developed cities with third-party policies covering property and casualty and life insurance. It really isn't a surprise to see CNinsure growing, given the general economic boom that's been taking shape in China over the years.

Gladstone is a specialty finance company, investing in debt securities from small and midsized businesses. Income investors have been warming up to Gladstone, given its chunky 7.3% yield. Growing its bottom line is one way to make sure that Gladstone keeps its generous payouts going and growing.

Hewlett-Packard has been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons in recent months. Whether unceremoniously dumping Mark Hurd as CEO, or making a peculiar choice for his replacement, HP has stumbled badly, and it needs a major hit to convince investors that there's life after Hurd. Perhaps it's a good omen that its most similar competitor came through with better-than-expected results last Thursday. Hopefully, HP will follow suit.

La-Z-Boy makes the cozy namesake furniture. The past few years haven't been as easy as relaxing on a recliner, but La-Z-Boy appears to be bouncing back. It has posted year-over-year profit gains in five of the past six quarters. Unfortunately for momentum watchers, the one time it did slip just happened to be its recent quarterly outing three months ago. The pros see La-Z-Boy getting back on the earnings growth track tonight.

Cracker Barrel runs its chain of throwback roadside eateries, where guests relax on rocking chairs after a meal of chicken with dumplings and other Southern comfort food. The attached gift shops also offer a hodgepodge of retro crafts, traditional playthings, and audiobooks to pass the time on long road trips. Folks are starting to eat out more often, but a favorable report out of Cracker Barrel also hints that consumers may be traveling a bit more, too.

Medtronic makes pacemakers, artificial cervical disks, and other health-care essentials. Let's not assume that health-related companies are all-weather investments. Hospitals have budgets to follow, and a recession can easily take a bite out of the amount of outside gear they can purchase. Medtronic isn't growing by much, but at least one of our Rising Stars analysts wanted to get in ahead of tomorrow's earnings report. 

Finally, we have Deere. It's encouraging to see analysts targeting a better-than-fourfold advance in the agricultural gear giant's quarterly income. Deere also toils away in other industrial gear, so a strong Deere may be a decent leading indicator for a pickup in industrial activity

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. Unfortunately, these companies are expected to post improving results. The optimism is already baked into their share prices, which makes it easier for them to slip. But why begin worrying about the companies that 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 report due out this week are you looking forward to? Share your enthusiasm in the comment box below.

The Fool owns shares of Medtronic. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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, except for Cracker Barrel. 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.