After back-to-back years of stock market gains, it's easy to fret over the year ahead.

Is the third time the harm?

I certainly didn't help matters over the weekend, singling out seven companies that are expected to post net income declines in 2011. If this is an improving economy, why are so many companies going the wrong way?

Thankfully, they're the exceptions and not the rule. Let's go over seven publicly traded companies that are expected to stand tall this year, posting year-over-year improvement on the bottom line.

Company

2011 EPS (estimated)

2010 EPS (estimated)

Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI) $0.03 $0.00
Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) $2.69 $2.36
Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS) $1.66 $1.00
Altria (NYSE: MO) $2.02 $1.90
Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) $10.38 $8.68
Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU) $2.37 $1.47
NVDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA) $0.73 $0.57


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with Sirius XM.

The satellite radio monopoly is rolling these days. Howard Stern didn't go away. Subscriber growth continues. It's also coming off a year and change of largely breakeven quarters, credit-rating agency upgrades, and hefty stock gains. What can Sirius XM do for an encore? Well, for starters, the only realistic game in town when it comes to premium radio is expected to pad its profitability. Instead of merely breaking even, the pros expect net margins to improve in 2011.

LED lighting has been shining kindly on Cree, as the electricity-friendly illumination source gains in popularity. Cree has been deploying a lot of its operating cash flow toward expanding capacity, a great wager if LED keeps heating up.

Las Vegas Sands stands to benefit from a stateside recovery at its casinos as well as its more intriguing presence overseas. Despite the exotic nature of running gaming establishments in Macau and Singapore, Las Vegas Sands is generating healthy net income. Its leveraged balance sheet pays off when times are good, and 2011 should be a healthier year all around for the gaming industry.

Altria is the company on this list with the smallest projected gain in profitability, but it may also be the most surprising entry. It's the parent behind Philip Morris' stateside business, ripe with liability uncertainty and the country's growing insensitivity to smokers. Are there really more people lighting up their Marlboro smokes these days? Apparently so -- and Altria even hiked its already hefty quarterly dividend this past summer.

Intuitive Surgical is the company behind the da Vinci robotic arms that allow surgeons to make even more precise surgical incisions. It's a win-win-win as surgeons have less fatigue, patients often recover sooner, and hospitals can perform more surgeries with quicker operating room turnaround times.

Baidu is China's leading search engine. Despite posting spectacular growth in 2010 -- gaining market share along the way -- Baidu won't be a slouch in 2011. Wall Street is banking on a 61% surge in earnings per share.

Finally, we have NVIDIA. The tech bellwether pioneered the graphics chip niche when it introduced the first graphics processing unit in 1999. It's a more competitive field these days, but the potential upside is also more open-ended.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
Investors in these seven stocks have a right to be excited. They are all improving their financial situations. I wouldn't be uncomfortable owning any of these companies. They're doing the right thing, regardless of Mr. Market's mood swings.

The expectations may be high, but these seven stocks wouldn't have it any other way.

Are you a buyer or a seller of stocks these days? Share your strategy in the comment box below.

Baidu and Intuitive Surgical are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. NVIDIA is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group. 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. 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.