January was generally kind to the equities market, but this doesn't mean that the rest of the year will follow suit. There are still plenty of weak spots in this economic recovery, and a worrywart doesn't need a magnifying glass to find them.
On Friday, I singled out seven stocks that are projected to post lower earnings this week than they did a year earlier. 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
Las Vegas Sands
Source: Thomson Reuters.
Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with Baidu. China's leading search engine reports tonight -- or tomorrow morning if you're in China. Baidu's been growing quickly as the world's most populous country embraces online connectivity. Analysts see revenue soaring 95% in its latest quarter, with earnings more than doubling.
A strong report out of parcel delivery juggernaut United Parcel Service is a healthy indicator that consumers are shopping and that companies are shipping packages around.
Level 3 is expected to post another loss, but Wall Street is banking on a slightly smaller loss this time around. The provider of enterprise networking services has been posting deficits for ages. As a bonus for trend watchers, Level 3 has posted an even narrower deficit than expected in each of its two previous quarters.
Visa is the credit card marketer that likely has some skin in your pocketbook. The good news is that Visa isn't an actual issuer of plastic. Visa-affiliated banks are the ones that issue the credit and take on the deadbeat risks. However, Visa isn't immune to changes in the way we swipe and any potential tightening in credit card approvals.
Coinstar got its start turning pocket change into gift certificates. These days it relies on disc-dispensing Redbox kiosks for the lion's share of its business. Coinstar recently warned of a rough holiday quarter, but its business is still growing at a healthy pace. The concern here is that Coinstar may have made a mistake when it agreed to delay new releases from some studios by four weeks, since it's those titles that forced the company into talking down its recent performance.
Casino operator Las Vegas Sands has been expanding into Asia as a way to tack on to its stateside gambling parlors. It's hard to argue with the results. Wall Street is banking on Las Vegas Sands putting out a quarterly profit of $0.39 a share on Thursday. It earned a mere $0.03 a share during the same period a year earlier.
Finally, we have YRC Worldwide earning its mud flaps. The trucking company seemed to be on the brink of extinction last year as losses, debt, and labor issues were mounting. YRC Worldwide has yet to turn the profitability corner, but it's losing a lot less than it did at this point last year (adjusted for its reverse split).
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. The bad news here is that these companies are expected to post improving results. The optimism is already baked into their share prices. It 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.
Baidu is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. The Fool owns shares of United Parcel Service. 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.