Panera Bread reported earnings today, and the market was generally pleased. Fourth-quarter profits were up, and the stock was up more than 3% on the news. However, the company lowered guidance for Q1 as well as for 2014 as a whole, citing bad weather this winter as the reason behind the reduced foot traffic the company experienced. Is that explanation to be believed, or are there other factors at stake here? On the lead story of Wednesday's Investor Beat, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool analyst Bill Barker take a look at Panera and its predictions for the year ahead.

Then, an analyst at Credit Suisse has come out with a report calling for Wal-Mart to buy Family Dollar. While the company certainly has the financial means to do so, would the move even make sense for the business? Bill and Chris discuss how the move could actually fill in some key gaps in Wal-Mart's offerings both geographically and in terms of products. They also discuss Wal-Mart as a whole, and whether investors should continue to look at this stock as a growth story.

And finally, DirecTV reports earnings tomorrow, and while Motley Fool analyst Bill Barker expects that the numbers will be good, the real reason he'll be watching closely tomorrow will be to listen for the commentary around the Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable, to see what insights can be gained about the new giant on the block.

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.