On Thursday, Joy Global (NYSE:JOY) will release its quarterly report, and shareholders are preparing for yet another big drop in revenue and earnings from year-ago levels. Like Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Joy Global has suffered from the plunge in commodities prices, which has forced mining companies to cut capital expenditures on equipment like Joy Global's. At the same time, though, Joy Global faces the possibility of new competition from the likes of General Electric (NYSE:GE).

For years, Joy Global's business surged as the long bull market in commodities continued, giving mining companies plenty of cash flow to spend on the latest available equipment upgrades. But falling prices for coal and iron ore as well as other base and precious metals gave Joy Global and its peers a major reversal of fortune, and now, it's unclear when Joy Global can expect to see conditions improve in the mining market. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Joy Global over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.

Source: Joy Global.

Stats on Joy Global

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$932.09 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

When will Joy Global earnings be able to grow again?
Investors have marked down their views on Joy Global earnings further in recent months, reducing their April-quarter estimates by almost 20%. But the stock hasn't performed badly at all, actually rising by 4% since late February.

Part of the reason why Joy Global shares have held up reasonably well is that expectations for the mining-equipment manufacturer are so low. In its fiscal first-quarter results in March, Joy Global said that profits plummeted 65% on a 27% drop in sales compared to the year-ago quarter. Yet investors applauded the fact that backlogs might have bottomed out, and Joy Global even raised its adjusted earnings guidance for the full fiscal year slightly.

Still, the big problem that Joy Global, Caterpillar, and other equipment makers face is that commodities markets continue to be weak. For instance, coal is a key driver for Joy Global's earnings, and lately, coal companies have struggled under the strain of cheap natural gas leading many of their domestic utility customers to convert from coal-fired power plants to natural-gas burning generation facilities.

Source: TTTNIS, via Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, competition is getting stronger. General Electric reportedly has improved its battery technology to allow its equipment to have a longer operating range, and the company has expanded its partnership with Japan's Komatsu to produce underground mining trucks as well as above-ground equipment.

The big question facing Joy Global, Caterpillar, and General Electric is whether mining-company customers will finally start to see better conditions ahead. Joy Global's management has made positive comments about price trends in areas like metallurgical coal and demand strength in emerging markets like China and India. But it could still take a long time for those markets to reach a new equilibrium, and in the meantime, Joy Global lacks the diversification that Caterpillar and General Electric have to other areas outside mining.

In the Joy Global earnings report, watch to see how the company talks about its future promise. With another quarter of ugly numbers ahead, you shouldn't let yourself get distracted by backward-looking figures and should instead focus entirely on whether Joy Global will emerge stronger than ever when commodities eventually rebound.

Click here to add Joy Global to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.