Snow? Ice? Let's go shopping!
The International Council of Shopping Centers' index of 32 retailers showed a 4.8% spike in same-store sales in January. Momentum obviously isn't slowing down after a somewhat robust holiday shopping season.
Does this mean that the coast is clear for the economy? Not even close.
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
World Wrestling Entertainment
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 Hasbro.
Hasbro has always been the toy company that's done things right. It didn't get tangled in the toxic paint recalls that befell many of its peers. It's been able to cash in on its proprietary characters, turning Transformers and G.I. Joe into cinematic goldmines. Yesterday found Hasbro jacking up its dividend by 20%. Does this sound like a company going the wrong way? Well, analysts seem to think so when the country's second largest toymaker reports come Monday morning.
Pitney Bowes has historically been a fair proxy for the economy. If metered mailings are going up, it means that companies are busy. Obviously that gauge is no longer a trusty source. Documents get emailed. Internet services provide required postage. It still doesn't make Pitney Bowes' reports any less compelling. The pros see a 5% slide in profitability this time around.
Akamai is the leading content-delivery network. If you're legally downloading an MP3, streaming video, or browsing a page that comes up brutally fast, there's a good chance that Akamai's server farm is making that happen. It's a cutthroat business, though.
Cisco is the networking giant that for a brief spell several years ago was actually the country's most valuable company by market cap. The router rooter remains an important tech bellwether, especially as an indicator of corporate spending on networking gear.
The cool realm of iRobot includes dirt-sucking Roomba vacuum-cleaning orbs and roadside bomb-silencing PackBot automatons. The company's been in a redemptive groove lately. The shares have nearly doubled over the past year, with iRobot beating analyst estimates by 150% or better in each of its three most recent quarters. That's the kind of momentum that bodes well for iRobot's chances of earning more than the $0.14 a share that Wall Street is targeting, but will it be enough to top the previous year's $0.20 a share quarter?
Joe's Jeans became a popular stock last year, when magnetic celebrities were spotted wearing the company's signature denim and apparel. Joe's Jeans then began to aggressively expand its physical retailing presence outside of its California stronghold. Sales are still growing at a double-digit pace, but margins are getting crushed.
Finally we have World Wrestling Entertainment. The McMahon family has crafted an enduring piece of Americana entertainment with its colorful grapplers, but where's the beef? The stock's generous 12% yield is drawing income investors into the ring, but it will have to grow earnings if it wants to justify its hefty distributions.
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.