With just a few trading days left in the year, and a historic interest rate increase finally behind us, stocks could still manage growth in 2015. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is down roughly 1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has slipped by only 2% since the beginning of the year.
In the shortened trading week ahead, apparel and footwear titan Nike (NYSE:NKE) may dazzle investors with its quarterly earnings announcement on Tuesday. The government will also issue a new reading on economic growth that morning. And on Wednesday, egg giant Cal-Main (NASDAQ:CALM) aims to post a massive profit gain as part of its fiscal second quarter results.
Tuesday, Dec. 22 – Nike's sharply improving business
Heading into its fiscal second-quarter release, Nike is the best performing stock among the 30 components of the Dow. Shares are up 39%, year-to-date, compared to a slight decrease for the index as a whole.
Looking at the footwear giant's latest operating results, it's easy to see why the stock has been on such a tear. Nike's fiscal first-quarter announcement contained just about everything that investors love to see: double-digit sales growth, falling costs, expanding profitability, and increasing cash returns to shareholders .
For the quarter that just closed, Wall Street is targeting a 6% sales gain, which would be an acceleration over the prior quarter's 5% jump. On a currency-adjusted basis, Nike's sales should again grow by double digits. Earnings are expected to improve by nearly 20% to $0.86 per share.
Meanwhile, investors in the company will notice that they have many more Nike shares in their portfolio on Dec. 24. That's not an early Christmas present: Nike's 2-for-1 stock split becomes effective on the morning of Christmas Eve.
Tuesday, Dec. 22 – An update on economic growth
In economic news, the government will release an updated estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the third quarter before the market opens on Tuesday. The last reading indicated that the economy grew at a 2.1% over that time. That was a major revision from the initial estimate of 1.5% growth .
Yet it still marked a significant slowdown from the second quarter's 3.9% jump. Since the recovery began in 2009, the economy's highest quarterly growth rate has been 4.6%, touched in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2014. Its worst performance was a 1.5% contraction in the first quarter of 2011:
With the Federal Reserve having officially started its initiative of raising interest rates toward more normal levels, GDP growth will play a key role in determining how quickly the central bank jacks up rates over the coming years.
Wednesday, Dec. 23 – Cal-Maine Foods' record profits
Cal-Maine, the nation's largest egg producer, will post quarterly earnings results after the market closes on Wednesday. The stock has had a great year so far, up 20% as a historic spike in egg prices has boosted profits.
Earnings for the twelve months ended in June soared 47% higher to $3.33 per share. That boost was powered by a bird flu outbreak that crimped the supply of eggs, leading to a significant increase in average selling prices: Egg prices this summer rose 66% to reach record levels .
Wall Street is looking for a massive increase in profits this quarter as earnings are expected to improve 224% to $2.46 per share. And it's likely that sales growth was robust, even with the sharply higher prices. "Demand trends for eggs from the retail and egg products markets have been favorable throughout the first quarter," CEO Dolph Baker said at Cal Main's last quarterly check in. If that trend continued into the producer's fiscal second-quarter, then shareholders could see more gains ahead for the stock.