The economy is showing signs of life. Fewer people are filing for unemployment benefits. The stock market is rallying again. Airlines are confidently hiking their domestic fares again.

Oh, wait. That last point is actually the result of pesky fuel prices. That's not good.

Then again, that's not the only thing that isn't good.

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.

Company

Latest Quarter EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter EPS

My Watchlist

Perfect World (Nasdaq: PWRD) $0.52 $0.75 Add
Home Inns & Hotels (Nasdaq: HMIN) $0.23 $0.26 Add
Northgate Minerals (AMEX: NXG) $0.06 $0.10 Add
Coldwater Creek (Nasdaq: CWTR) ($0.26) ($0.10) Add
H&R Block (NYSE: HRB) $0.00 $0.16 Add
Men's Wearhouse (NYSE: MW) ($0.20) ($0.11) Add
Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO) $0.97 $0.99 Add

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 Perfect World. Most -- but not all -- of Perfect World's online gaming peers in China are growing these days. It's no longer as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Investors need to pick the right companies championing multiplayer fantasy role-playing games in China. Perfect World had its moment of glory, but this should be its third consecutive quarter of posting a year-over-year decline in profitability.

Home Inns is another company toiling away in a seemingly booming industry. The hospitality industry is growing quickly in China, as corporate travelers and financially empowered consumers are filling up rooms as quickly as they open. What's Home Inns doing wrong? It's likely more of a margin-management situation, since analysts do see revenue climbing 20% for the period.

Northgate Minerals is a Vancouver-based miner. One would think that watching over gold and copper mines in Canada and Australia would be easy money in this climate of spiking commodity prices. Think again. This isn't a fluke. This would be Northgate's fourth straight quarter of lower year-over-year earnings per share.

Coldwater Creek is the mail-order company that bit off more than it could chew when it expanded into mall stores. It's had a rough go of it lately, posting losses in seven of the past nine quarters. Its previous quarter was a disaster, and it appears to have been a blue Christmas for Coldwater Creek over the holidays.

H&R Block is the tax-prep giant that's been meandering lately. Annualized revenue over the past five years has been flat. More folks are filing for free online. No one's falling for the tax refund anticipation loan racket anymore. There's no chance that it will ever dabble in mortgage originations again.

Income investors may be warming up to H&R Block's chunky 4.1% yield, but how reliable can that payout be when the meandering behemoth is backpedalling? It's not just this quarter. Analysts see revenue and earnings declining slightly for all of fiscal 2011.

"You're going to like the way you look," Men's Wearhouse founder/CEO George Zimmer says in his ads. "I guarantee it."

Well, you're not going to like the way the suit outfitter is going to look wearing next Wednesday's quarterly report. Wall Street almost guarantees it. The pros see it losing nearly twice as much as it did during the previous year's holiday quarter.

Aeropostale is holding up considerably better, but investors are still braced for a small dip in profitability out of the popular mall retailer.

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.

The Fool owns shares of Aeropostale and Northgate Minerals. 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.