We're now halfway through January, and the reviews are mixed on this alleged recovery.

Holiday sales hit a new record, but cynics will be quick to point out that the $462 billion in seasonal sales reported by the National Retail Federation isn't a new high when one bakes in inflation.

Inflation? Who said anything about inflation?

I had no problem over the weekend bringing up several companies that are projected to post lower quarterly earnings this week than they did a year ago.

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

Company

Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) $5.38 $3.67
Cree (Nasdaq: CREE) $0.58 $0.38
Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) $2.82 $2.15
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) $8.07 $6.79
Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG) $2.24 $1.95
NetScout (Nasdaq: NTCT) $0.29 $0.25
Skyworks Solutions (Nasdaq: SWKS) $0.44 $0.27

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with Apple.

Analysts are expecting the iEverything bellwether to earn $5.38 a share. It would represent a nearly 45% spurt in year-over-year profitability, but even that target may prove to be conservative.

Let's see how badly the pros have underestimated Apple's bottom line over the past year.

  Est. EPS Diff.
Q1 2010 $2.09 $3.67 76%
Q2 2010 $2.45 $3.33 36%
Q3 2010 $3.12 $3.51 13%
Q4 2010 $4.08 $4.64 14%

Source: Thomson Reuters.

In short, the pros are getting closer, but you still have to like Apple's chances heading into tonight's report.

Cree has bounced back in a major way since revenue dipped slightly in fiscal 2007. The LED-lighting speedster has seen its revenue more than double to $867 million by fiscal 2010. Cree's new fiscal year has been more of the same, as global demand for the cost-effective and eco-friendly lighting continues to light up the top and bottom lines.

Freeport McMoRan is a copper giant, making the most of rising metal prices. It also dabbles in gold mining. It obviously isn't a surprise to see Freeport McMoRan growing in this kind of climate.

Google runs the world's leading search engine, parlaying that into its more lucrative title as the global leader in online advertising. Google managed to grow during the economic lull, so it's not much of a shocker to see it doing even better now that advertisers are spending more money.

Intuitive Surgical revolutionized the operating room with its surgical robotic arm. Growth has slowed with the one-two punch of da Vinci product maturity and bootstrapped hospitals, but the pros are still targeting 15% earnings growth.

NetScout's bottom-line growth in its latest quarter is in line with Intuitive Surgical's estimates, but they're in entirely different industries. NetScout monitors uptime for websites where staying online is critical. Online brokers, for example, turn to NetScout to make sure they don't slip on the trade execution front.

Finally, we have Skyworks Solutions. Wall Street sees the maker of analog and mixed signal semiconductors earning $0.44 a share, well ahead of the $0.27 a share it posted during the same quarter a year earlier.

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. They are worthy of the gains that the market rally has bestowed upon them over the past year.

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.

Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Google and Intuitive Surgical are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. The Fool has written puts on Apple, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. 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.