Every week seems to deliver new signs of economic life on our doorstep.
This week it was the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reporting that its index of manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic almost doubled this month.
This is welcome news, but not everything is as productive as it used to be.
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
Barnes & Noble
Great Wolf Resorts
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 Barnes & Noble. The leading bookseller may seem like the obvious beneficiary of Borders filing for bankruptcy, but you may want to read ahead before you assume this plays out well. Even if Borders winds up closing hundreds of stores, print is a fading medium. I'm sure rival record stores initially cheered when the first wave of CD shops closed down.
Barnes & Noble is trying its best to roll with the times. It has priced its Nook and its nifty Nook Color aggressively, but even the clever in-store tie-ins won't keep its bricks-and-mortar stores coasting. Digital delivery is exactly that. Meanwhile, stiff margins on its e-readers will find the chain likely posting a lower profit this holiday quarter. Even the $1.13 a share that analysts are targeting seems ambitious in this climate.
Chesapeake Energy is a natural gas producer. This may seem like a steady business, but it's not. This is the first time in a little over a year that Chesapeake is scheduled to post a year-over-year decline in profitability. Before that, it had posted bottom-line dips in four consecutive quarters.
RadioShack's problems are bigger than its small-box stores. The retailer recently hosed down its guidance. Its CEO is leaving. It lost a kiosk deal inside Sam's Club, though it's been able to offset that with a bigger deal. Reporting lower earnings next week should be a walk in the park compared to what it's been through already.
Garmin is the navigation giant. It's not a surprise to see its flagship GPS business slipping. Smartphones and even smarter dashboards provide free turn-by-turn navigation. Garmin thankfully has other product lines outside of its auto GPS gadgetry, but it's apparently not enough to stop Garmin's bottom line from drifting southward.
Great Wolf Resorts operates a chain of family friendly lodges with massive indoor waterparks. Hefty leverage and a challenging economy haven't helped the once promising chains. It's been trading in the single digits since late 2007.
The CEC in CEC Enterprises stands for Chuck E. Cheese. Yes, this is the company that runs those magnetic arcades where kids run wild as some poor teen in a rodent costume entertains party guests. One would think that an improving economy would translate into more outings with the kiddies for single-token games and surprisingly tasty pizza, but it's not helping CEC's net income.
Finally we have Novatel Wireless. I was a shareholder in Novatel when the company's MiFi was revolutionizing the market at the first mobile hotspot. I cashed out last year. It's still a major player there, but it has real competition these days. Many smartphones also now offer similar tethering services.
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.
Motley Fool Alpha owns shares of Chesapeake Energy, which is a Motley Fool Inside Value 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 wonders if his contrarian heart will ever be happy. 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.