Earnings season is winding down, with most companies already having reported their quarterly results. But there are still some companies left to report, and Ferrellgas Partners (NYSE:FGP) is about to release its quarterly earnings report. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarter reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Master limited partnerships have taken the energy world by storm, but Ferrellgas isn't your typical MLP. Rather than operating pipelines or natural gas storage facilities, the company is a seller of propane for commercial and residential use. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Ferrellgas Partners over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report on Thursday.

Stats on Ferrellgas Partners

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$625 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Ferrellgas Partners burn brighter this quarter?
Analysts have boosted their estimates for Ferrellgas lately, pushing earnings-per-share calls for the most recent quarter up $0.07 and full-year fiscal 2013 estimates up more than $0.20. The stock has also climbed in sympathy, rising 18% since early December.

Ferrellgas isn't a name most investors have heard of, but if you own a grill, then you might be more familiar with Blue Rhino. Ferrellgas distributes its popular refillable gas canisters at grocery stores and other retail outlets, in addition to providing greater quantities of propane directly to homeowners for heating and other purposes. With almost no correlation to the market, Ferrellgas has been a good play for those concerned about a potential economic slowdown budding into another recession.

But the primary draw of Ferrellgas for investors is its dividend. With a yield approaching 10%, the company even manages to top the 7% to 8% yields of competitors Suburban Propane (NYSE:SPH) and AmeriGas Partners (NYSE:APU). However, Ferrellgas has negative shareholder equity and a relatively large debt load that comes close to its current market cap, creating some credit risk for investors.

In its quarterly report, watch for Ferrellgas to comment on the impact of the weather on its seasonal earnings. With this winter not having been as warm as last winter, favorable comparisons could send Ferrellgas unit prices higher if the company makes the most of better conditions.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.