Nike

Lace up your sneakers, Nike (NYSE:NKE) investors, because the sportswear behemoth is poised to announce fiscal second-quarter 2016 results next Tuesday after the bell. And with Nike stock up more than 30% year to date on the heels of its impressive fiscal Q1 report three months ago, you can bet investors will be listening closely to what it says.

But what, exactly, should we be listening for when Nike's report crosses the wires? 

The currency factor
First, Nike's reported results are somewhat deceiving given the outsized role foreign currency exchange has played in holding back reported growth in recent quarters. International markets consistently represent more than half of all NIKE Brand sales. So last quarter, while Nike's revenue climbed just 5% year over year to $8.4 billion, it would have jumped a much more impressive 14% if it weren't for the negative impact of foreign currency exchange.

For perspective, Under Armour's (NYSE:UAA) International revenue only comprised 11% of its own total last quarter, which meant a comparatively minor three percentage point difference between Under Armour's reported growth (at 28%) and currency-adjusted growth (at 31%). At the same time, Under Armour's international sales also skyrocketed 51% year over year last quarter as the smaller athletic apparel specialist continues to invest heavily to expand its global reach. So while Under Armour's overall results should gradually grow to more closely resemble those of Nike in terms of currencies, Nike investors would be wise to keep an eye on whether Under Armour is taking ground in the overseas markets it chooses to enter. 

In the meantime, Nike's current fiscal Q2 guidance calls for reported revenue growth in the mid-single-digit percentage range, and currency-neutral growth in the low teens. But more than anything, these currency headwinds should prove a temporary burden and aren't indicative of deeper problems with Nike's underlying business.

In addition, Nike simultaneously expects gross margin this fiscal year to expand by around 50 basis points, including a more modest 25-basis-point expansion this quarter as it works to efficiently clear excess inventory and keep in-line channels as fresh as possible. As Nike works to improve operational efficiency while these economic headwinds persist, it should emerge even stronger in the end.

Broad global strength
To be sure, Nike's performance on a geographic basis has been nothing short of remarkable. After suffering uncertainty as it reset its business in China last year, then encountered difficult comps as it lapped an exceptional quarter following last year's FIFA World Cup, last quarter Nike achieved double-digit currency-neutral growth in every geography except North America, where currency-neutral revenue rose a still-solid 9%. Greater China, in particular, saw a 30% increase in revenue last quarter despite ongoing macroeconomic challenges in the region. 

Investors should also hope for continued strength in Nike's direct-to-consumer (DTC) business. That includes overall DTC revenue (up 21% year over year last quarter), which itself should be driven by a combination of new stores, growth in online sales at Nike.com (up 46% last quarter), and comparable store sales growth (up 7% last quarter).

Meanwhile, don't forget about Converse, the smaller sneaker brand Nike acquired for only $305 million in 2003. Last quarter, Converse sales actually fell 3% year over year to $555 million, or less than 7% of Nike's total revenue, and only rose 3% excluding currencies. Once again, however, looks can be deceiving: Nike management explained during last quarter's conference call that Converse is still enjoying double-digit growth here in the United States. And going forward, Converse's quarterly year-over-year comparisons will likely be lumpy as Nike transitions the brand to a "more direct operating model" outside the U.S.

Running forward
Finally, in addition to the usual top-line and gross margin revenue guidance, Nike management should give investors a supplementary glimpse to the month's ahead with details on scheduled worldwide futures orders. For perspective, Nike most recently stated last quarter's futures orders were 9% higher than the same year-ago period, 17% higher excluding currencies, and more heavily weighted toward the second half of the five-month period ending January 2016. This quarter's futures orders should span the five-month period between December 2015 and April 2016, and give investors a fresh look at how Nike believes it will fare for the first third of the coming calendar year.

In the end, however, if Nike's past performance is any indication, I suspect this will prove yet another solid report as Nike implements its long-term plans to continue creating shareholder value.

Steve Symington owns shares of Under Armour. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nike and Under Armour. 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.