It took some time, but summer is finally closing out with a bang.

The S&P 500 popped 5% higher last week, and even that juicy gain is slacker fodder with Nasdaq's 6% spurt.

Things aren't always pretty out there.

I went over a few companies going the wrong way on Friday, 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 some publicly traded companies that are expected to stand tall this week by posting year-over-year improvement on the bottom line.


Latest Quarter EPS (estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter EPS



Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL)




Carnival (NYSE: CCL)




Steelcase (NYSE: SCS)




Herman Miller (Nasdaq: MLHR)




Cintas (Nasdaq: CTAS)




Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD)




CarMax (NYSE: KMX)




Source: Thomson Reuters.

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

Larry Ellison's company has been a leader in enterprise software for years. If Oracle ever shows signs of cracking, Ellison seems to find an accretive acquisition here or there to get the company back on track. Analysts see modest improvement in Oracle's latest quarter, and it's an encouraging sign if companies are still spending more on enterprise solutions.

Carnival is the world's largest cruise ship operator. It wasn't exactly smooth sailing for Carnival three months ago, when the cruise line warned that pesky prices, soft European bookings, and itinerary-shuffling natural disasters were anchoring down its performance. The waves are still a bit choppy here, but at least Carnival is cruising in the right direction right now.

Steelcase and Herman Miller specialize in office furniture. This may seem like an obscure niche to follow, but I watch it like a hawk. Why? Well, it's a great gauge for the state of corporate America. Companies ordering new file cabinets, task chairs, and cubicle partitions are either hiring again or feeling confident enough to update their old office fixtures.

Cintas offers an even more obvious measuring stick. Cintas is the country's leading provider of workforce apparel. Companies sign deals with Cintas in order to have grungy garb swapped out for freshly washed uniforms with corporate logos. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that if business at Cintas is good then the employment picture is improving.

Rite Aid investors are bracing for a quarterly deficit, but what else is new? The drugstore chain hasn't posted a profit in four years. Thankfully, the pros see Rite Aid posting a narrower deficit this time around. It's not great, but it is progress.

Finally, we have CarMax pulling up for its quarterly peek under the hood. The used-car retailer has cleaned up the industry with its haggle-free selection of maintained preowned automobiles. CarMax has held up well during lean economic times, as folks needing new rides get more bang for their buck by turning to used-car showrooms.   

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 comments box below.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.