With crude oil hitting a 30-month high over the weekend, it's easy to get frustrated. You're not just facing the likelihood of $4-a-gallon gas over the next few months, but also a host of other price hikes, since costlier fuel makes it more expensive to produce and transport goods. Pain at the pump can nip an economic recovery in the bud! Fortunately, this scenario doesn't have to end badly.
I realize that I can be a worrywart. I singled out several companies over the weekend 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 expect to post healthier bottom lines this week.
Latest Quarter EPS (Estimated)
Year-Ago Quarter EPS
Source: Thomson Reuters.
Clearing the table
Fastenal makes threaded fasteners and related washers. It has posted year-over-year growth in each of its three previous quarters. It did come up short on the bottom line in its most recent period, relative to analyst expectations, but it had beaten Wall Street's income targets in each of the three quarters before that.
Financial juggernaut JPMorgan Chase encompasses investment banking, retail banking, and credit cards. Unlike many of its "too big to fail" peers, JPMorgan remained profitable during the darkest stretches of the banking meltdown. I'm not surprised to see it growing now that the economy is showing signs of life.
Check Point Software Technologies provides companies with website security software. This is obviously a booming industry. Cyber threats are everywhere, and they will only proliferate as more of the global marketplace migrates online. In this competitive industry, Check Point has posted consistent performance. Analysts see earnings growing at a 10% clip this year and next year.
Fairchild Semiconductor's high-performance integrated circuits, or ICs, enable mobile connectivity in various applications The pros are banking on a profit of $0.36 a share from Fairchild, well ahead of the $0.25 a share it earned during last year's first quarter.
Google has made the most of its pole position in global search to become the world's leading online advertising platform -- but the company can't rest on its laurels. Facebook is poaching key executives. Antitrust concerns will surely follow any major acquisition announcement the company might make. And Google isn't growing as quickly as it used to in its heyday.
It may take some time before you read about Google hitting a new all-time high. It's trading well below its 2007 high of $747.24.
Charles Schwab is the country's leading discount broker. The revolution that has empowered individual investors has been good to Schwab and its fellow discounters, but the company still faces near-term challenges. Commission rates have fallen over the years, and most brokers now offer a selection of commission-free ETFs. Low rates make it hard to turn a profit on money market funds. Schwab also had to settle its way out of the embarrassing YieldPlus fiasco. The future should be kinder, especially now that sector consolidation is heating up again.
Finally office-furniture maker Knoll should fare well now that companies are hiring again. Analysts feel that Knoll's profitability will double when it reports on Friday.
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 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.