Earnings season is winding down, with most companies already having reported their quarterly results. But there are still some companies left to report, and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) is about to release its quarterly earnings. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarterly 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.

Costco needs no introduction, with its wholesale warehouse business having revolutionized big-box retail. But how did the company do in the all-important holiday season? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Costco over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report on Tuesday.

Stats on Costco

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$25.13 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Costco bring home profits this quarter?
Analysts have been mostly stable in their views on Costco's earnings in the past few months, cutting the just-ended quarter's call by a penny per share but raising full fiscal-year 2013 consensus by the same penny. The stock is up a modest 5% since early December.

Costco is the closest thing to a co-op that you'll probably ever see from a private company. The warehouse retailer sells its goods at razor-thin margins even by retail standards, making the bulk of its money from the annual membership fees that it charges. With the company having maintained an 86% membership renewal rate even after raising its fees by 10%, Costco clearly has strong customer loyalty.

Recently, Costco has been having great success even in a difficult economic environment. Same-store sales in February came in at 6%, outpacing analysts' calls even as gas prices rose, tax refunds were delayed, and the payroll-tax holiday took full effect. By contrast, both Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) have had struggles with sales, with the now-infamous internal emails from Wal-Mart complaining about customers' absence.

Yet Costco hasn't gone without problems. On Valentine's Day, Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) accused the wholesaler of selling counterfeit Tiffany diamond rings. Even though Costco had stopped selling the rings already after Tiffany's initial complaint, the jeweler decided to move ahead with the suit, which seeks $2 million plus triple damages for any profit Costco made from selling the rings.

Tiffany aside, Costco merely needs to keep up the string of good news going in its quarterly report to make investors happy. So far, the company has done an excellent job of navigating changing retail trends, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.

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