It's getting scary at the gas pump.

Gas prices are up to a national average of $3.127 a gallon, $0.50 ahead of what folks were paying for their car fuel a year ago. It also happens to be a record for this time of year.

Higher fuel prices don't just put your road trip out to Walley World on hold. Products and edibles that are transported get that much more expensive. No one appears to be panicking at the prospect of pesky prices at the pump, but I'd watch this space.

It can get problematic, but it's not the only thing to worry about.

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.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN) ($0.24) ($0.39)
Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) $0.37 $0.28
Vonage (NYSE: VG) $0.04 $0.03
ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK) $0.23 $0.20
Morningstar (Nasdaq: MORN) $0.47 $0.29
Build-A-Bear Workshop (NYSE: BBW) $0.26 ($0.05)
NxStage Medical (Nasdaq: NXTM) ($0.14) ($0.19)

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with Cedar Fair.

The amusement park operator behind Cedar Point in Ohio and Knott's Berry Farm in California is obviously going to be keeping an eye on gasoline prices. While its parks rely mostly on visitors who live within 150 miles of its gated attractions, this is in an industry that will get mauled this summer if fuel prices keep climbing.

None of this will factor into the quarterly results that Cedar Fair will discuss tomorrow morning. The fourth quarter is also a seasonal lull for the company, with most of its parks closed after Halloween. A narrower loss is still a welcome sight, especially given recent confrontations between the park operator and some vocal activist investors.  

Dell's the computing giant behind the cool Inspiron Duo laptops that flip over into chunky tablets, but that's not the only thing turning at the company. Dell's commitment to cost controls is resulting in a resurgent bottom line.

Vonage is the telephony specialist that turned heads with its aggressively marketed Web-based phone service. It's been hard to stand out these days. Many have traded in landlines for cell phones, and most cable providers and telcos offer similar Internet-based calling plans. The upside here is that after a string of losses, Vonage has finally started posting quarterly profits during several quarters in the last year and a half.

ValueClick is an online marketer coming off a mixed quarter three months ago. It has been able to top Wall Street's profit targets for seven consecutive quarters, so momentum favors it topping the $0.23 a share that the pros are expecting.

Morningstar is the investing research provider that initially specialized in mutual funds. It's still the leader in helping individual investors choose among competing funds, but it also has a thriving equity research business these days.

Build-A-Bear Workshop runs a chain of mall stores where kids customize stuffed animals that are birthed (i.e., stuffed) before their very eyes. It will be a dramatic turnaround for Build-A-Bear if it's able to reverse the previous year's holiday deficit with a profit of $0.26 a share, but don't cheer too loud. The current estimate is still roughly half of what it earned during its holiday quarter three years ago and a third of what it rang up the holiday period before that.

Finally we have NxStage Medical. The company makes medical devices, including home hemodialysis machines and other critical-care gadgetry. The shares have more than tripled since being recommended to Rule Breakers subscribers 15 months ago. A stock obviously doesn't put up that kind of gains if it's not earning its keep financially.

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.

ValueClick is a Motley Fool Big Short short-sale recommendation. NxStage Medical is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. The Fool owns shares of Morningstar, which is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. 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.