You know that the economy's holding up fairly well when one of the more pressing matters out there revolves around whether the world's largest retailer should be allowed to build a big-box discount retail store near a Civil War battle site.

Still, this doesn't mean that everything's rosy. Over the weekend, I had no trouble finding several companies projected to post lower quarterly earnings this week than they did a year ago.

Thankfully, they're the exceptions, 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.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

VMware (NYSE: VMW) $0.44 $0.31
Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG) ($0.30) ($0.63)
Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) $0.22 $0.11
E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC) $0.04 ($0.40)
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) $0.71 $0.56
Altria (NYSE: MO) $0.44 $0.39
Under Armour (NYSE: UA) $0.36 $0.30

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with VMware. The market darling in virtualization software should continue to grow as companies begin to ramp up their IT spending. Analysts see earnings climbing 42%, but investors shouldn't be surprised to see VMware take an even bigger step forward. Wall Street has underestimated the company's profitability in each of the nine previous quarters.

Harley-Davidson may be staring at another fourth-quarter deficit, but the motorcycle giant is only expected to lose half as much as it did during last year's holiday quarter. If you're holding out for even better news, keep in mind that Harley-Davidson is typically highly profitable. These two periods are Harley's only red-inked quarters in years.

Yahoo! may not be considered much of a growth stock these days, but you won't find too many search engines doubling on the bottom line in their latest quarter. Beyond Yahoo!'s growing net income, its value is backed by a healthy cash balance and an even healthier portfolio of equity stakes in fast-growing Asian companies.

E*TRADE reports a week after its two larger rivals stepped up to the earnings stage. Now we know why the E*TRADE Baby is so chipper in the discount broker's ads. The discounter is profitable again. This should be E*TRADE's third consecutive quarter in the black.

Netflix has seen its subscriber base explode as it leads the way in digitally streaming movie rentals. Since its first rate hike in years goes into effect this month, it will be interesting to see whether Netflix comments on churn trends during the current quarter. At the very least, we may learn whether Netflix cracked the 20 million-subscriber mark by the end of the year. The high end of Netflix's range called only for 19.7 million couch potatoes, but the company has a way of underselling its potential.

Altria makes all the Marlboro packs and other Philip Morris smokes sold in the United States. If we're smoking less, if the legal liabilities are a dagger, we'll find out. For now, Altria is growing its profitability, and it boosted its dividend this past summer.

Finally, we have Under Armour. Its eponymous sweat-shaking performance clothing has evolved into a premium brand that also includes athletic footwear. Analysts foresee Under Armour's earnings sprinting 20% for the quarter.

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 buying or selling stocks these days? Share your strategy in the comment box below.

Under Armour and VMware are Motley Fool Rule Breakers choices. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick. Under Armour is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Altria Group and Under Armour. 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 Netflix. 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.