Durable goods orders climbed 1.9% last month, reversing the April decline in factory orders. The Commerce Department isn't all bad news these days.  

It's not perfect.

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.

Company

Latest Quarter EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter EPS

My

Watchlist

Nike (NYSE: NKE) $1.16 $1.06 Add
American Greetings (NYSE: AM) $0.78 $0.75 Add
General Mills (NYSE: GIS) $0.52 $0.41 Add
Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) $1.00 $0.81 Add
McCormick (NYSE: MKC) $0.54 $0.49 Add
Monsanto (NYSE: MON) $1.11 $0.81 Add
KB Home (NYSE: KBH) ($0.32) ($0.40) Add

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with Nike.

The athletic footwear and apparel giant reports tonight. If folks are buying the lightweight Fly Wade shoes that came out several weeks ago or paying a premium for clothing with Nike's signature swoosh, the economy can't be doing all that badly.

American Greetings is a surprising name on this list. Don't we live in a world where virtual pats on the back through Facebook or animated greetings via JibJab are enough? Who still sends out traditional greeting cards? Do we even need stationery items anymore? American Greetings has been smart enough to beef up its online presence, but can the "freemium" model ever replace the money it can make on paper cards? Well, American Greetings has been able to grow its bottom line despite challenges on the top line. This time around, the pros see improvement at both ends of the income statement.

General Mills is the cereal thriller behind Cheerios, Trix, and Lucky Charms. Thinking outside of the cereal box, General Mills also stocks your local grocer with Green Giant veggies, Old El Paso salsa, and Hamburger Helper mealtime savers.

Shoppers may have been tempted to turn to cheaper store brands during the darkest recessionary stretches, but the slightly pricier brand names appear to be holding up despite commodity-related price hikes at the supermarket.

Darden is the casual dining restaurant operator that, coincidentally, was owned by General Mills at one time. If you don't recall ever having eaten at a Darden, it's because that is simply the name of the parent company that watches over Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and a few smaller concepts. Yes, folks are eating out again.

McCormick is no stranger to most spice racks. Unlike many of the grocery store brands that took a hit when money was tight, McCormick managed to post consistent year-over-year earnings growth throughout the economic downturn.

Wall Street sees a profit of $0.54 a share out of McCormick, but don't be afraid to aim slightly higher. The spice maker has clocked in ahead of profit targets in each of its five previous quarters.

Monsanto is the agricultural chemical giant behind crop seeds and weed killers that keep farms and lawns in the green. Given the global demand for bountiful harvests, it's not really much of a surprise to see Monsanto here.

Finally, we have KB Home. Real estate developers took a hit after the homebuyer tax credits dried up last April, so even an arguably improved economy is no guarantee that folks will begin buying new houses again. We still have a glut of unsold properties on the market. Unlike the six other names on this list, KB Home isn't on this list because it's making more money than it did a year ago. KB Home makes the cut because it's simply losing less.

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.

Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Nike and McCormick, as well as creating a diagonal call position in Nike and a synthetic long position in Monsanto. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.