Companies are starting to wind down as we head into the homestretch of the holiday season, but that doesn't mean that no news is good news.

Despite the heady market gains in recent weeks, there are still plenty of companies posting lower earnings than they did a year ago. Let's go over a few of the names that are expected to go the wrong way on the bottom line next week.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Enzo Biochem (NYSE: ENZ) ($0.06) ($0.05)
Spartech (NYSE: SEH) $0.06 $0.15
Imperial Sugar (Nasdaq: IPSU) ($0.24) ($0.02)
Apogee (Nasdaq: APOG) ($0.10) $0.39
Joy Global (Nasdaq: JOYG) $1.16 $1.20
Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD) ($0.13) ($0.10)

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
There will likely be more 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 Enzo Biochem. The biotech has been posting quarterly losses for years, so reasonable investors are already braced for red ink. The rub with Enzo is that this will probably be its fourth consecutive quarter of posting a wider deficit than it did a year earlier.

St. Louis-based Spartech is also shaping up to come up short. The producer of plastic products may have given filings watchers hope back in September, when a few executives began buying shares in the company. The stock has moved significantly higher since then, so the insider buying appears to be validation.

I'm still skeptical about Spartech, though. The company has actually missed Wall Street's profit expectations in each of the five previous quarters. Unless that trend reverses, how confident can an investor be that Spartech will earn even the $0.06 a share that the pros are projecting?

Imperial Sugar isn't as sweet as the refined sugar it processes. It's been coping with high raw sugar costs, and it still doesn't appear to be over the horrific refinery explosion in 2008 that left 14 people dead and dozens more injured. It's been consistently posting quarterly losses outside of the chunky insurance settlement it scored in fiscal 2010. A wider deficit this time around is not what shareholders want to see.

Glass products manufacturer Apogee has been a real pane lately. Next week should unveil Apogee's third consecutive quarterly loss. Income investors warming up to its 2.7% yield may want to keep an eye on the red ink. Apogee has already paid out more over the past year in dividend distributions than it has earned, and the payouts aren't going to be sustainable if Apogee doesn't turn its financials around.

Joy Global may have a merry name, but the maker of mining equipment is digging itself into a hole.

In retrospect, Joy Global's in a lot better shape than the other companies being singled out this week. It is profitable, something that only Spartech can nod along to. Analysts are banking on a profit of $1.16 a share; that's also just marginally below the $1.20 a share it rang up a year ago. However, Joy Global should be growing, given the worldwide demand for mining equipment and booming commodity prices.

Finally, we have Rite Aid. The drugstore chain with the penny stock price has been battling with the $1 mark over the past two years as if it's a chin-up bar. You have to go back more than three years to find the last time that Rite Aid mustered a quarterly profit.

Despite the microscopic share price and crummy fundamentals, Rite Aid isn't small. The chain of 4,700 pharmacies rang up $25.7 billion in sales in fiscal 2010. Walgreen (NYSE: WAG) is bigger, but there's no excuse for Rite Aid to be mired in red ink while Walgreen is able to post positive profitability on a consistent basis. Rite Aid may have a lot more debt to cover, but that's certainly not Walgreen's fault.

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

The good news here 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.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.