Last week was the beginning of earnings season for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI), but activity will ramp up dramatically this week, with almost a dozen blue-chip companies due to report their results. Tomorrow morning, we'll hear from nearly half of those stocks, including Verizon (NYSE:VZ), DuPont (NYSE:DD), and Travelers (NYSE:TRV). What the three Dow components say will give a lot of insight on very different parts of the economy.
All three companies are scheduled to release their earnings results before the market opens on Tuesday morning. Verizon gets things started with a conference call scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. EDT. DuPont and Travelers will separately weigh in on their results with conference calls set for 9 a.m. EDT.
Among the three companies, investors are probably most optimistic about Verizon, with earnings expected to bounce upward by 20% from year-ago levels. Already, CEO Lowell McAdam noted that Verizon's wireless division added 1.4 million subscribers during the quarter. Fears that the wireless giant would see earnings pressured by a potential price war with smaller competitors have largely proven unfounded, and Verizon remains insistent that it expects to use its network quality as a competitive moat that it hopes will allow it to sustain wider profit margins and avoid drag on its bottom line.
By contrast, DuPont has already warned that its results would be weaker than expected, as the chemical giant suffers from a miscue related to the current growing season. Cold weather delayed the beginning of the growing season in North America, but DuPont also expected farmers to plant more corn than they did, failing to anticipate greater demand for soybeans and therefore ending up with high levels of corn-seed inventory. The agricultural industry is arguably overdue for a correction after years of strength, but DuPont has taken steps to sell lower-margin businesses in order to concentrate more on agriculture. Few seem worried at this point that DuPont's long-term strategy is flawed, but if negative agricultural trends continue, those concerns could grow more prevalent.
Finally, Travelers has recently benefited from good fortune, with 2012's Hurricane Sandy marking the last major loss event for the property and casualty insurer. The second quarter once again brought no major catastrophic events for Travelers, so investors are optimistic about its short-term results. Analysts have tried to anticipate when the business cycle for insurance will turn back downward, as premiums will eventually come under pressure and lead competitors to drop prices. That would force Travelers to respond to preserve market share. For now, though, Travelers is enjoying the good times while they last.
For Dow investors, the flood of earnings news will be hard to synthesize into a single picture of the economy. But by keeping track of the crosscurrents among different industries in the Dow Jones Industrials, you'll get a more complete picture of what's likely to come for the index and its component companies.