There are many ways to gauge the health of the economy. Consumer confidence metrics and last week's gross domestic product report help economists take the pulse, but I'm a stock guy.

I prefer to look at companies and see if they are earning more or less than they used to.

It's easy to do, but it's not for the squeamish, since every once in a while you will grab a company by the wrist and find that it has no pulse.

I may have played the killjoy over the weekend, singling out seven stocks that are projected to post lower quarterly profits this week than they did a year ago. Thankfully, there will be far more companies improving their bottom lines this week than those going the wrong way.

Let's go over seven publicly traded companies that are expected to stand tall this week by posting year-over-year improvement on the bottom line.

Company

Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

American Tower (NYSE: AMT)

$0.20

$0.13

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)

$0.63

$0.48

priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN)

$2.65

$2.02

YRC Worldwide (Nasdaq: YRCW)

($0.08)

($3.53)

Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI)

$0.00

($0.01)

Vonage (NYSE: VG)

$0.02

$0.01

Blue Nile (Nasdaq: NILE)

$0.23

$0.19

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top with American Tower. The company builds communication towers, leasing out the antenna space to wireless carriers. Sure, radio and television station operators get in on American Tower's structures, but the real growth driver is on the telco side. As smartphones continue to suck up bandwidth and carriers get knocked for their coverage maps, American Tower is certainly in demand these days.

Pfizer is the major pharmaceuticals company behind cholesterol-lowering Lipitor, depression-soothing Zoloft, and "crank up the Barry White" mood-setting Viagra. Drug companies haven't exactly been the picture of health in recent years, as investors begin fretting over the pipelines of the Big Pharma players as their blockbuster drugs grind their way toward patent expirations. Pfizer has had its ups and downs along the way, but analysts see a solid 31% spurt on the bottom line tomorrow.

It was a smooth flight for priceline.com until the "name your own price" travel website created turbulence with its first-quarter report three months ago. Earnings clocked in ahead of expectations -- the way it consistently has for nearly four years -- but revenue growth came in weak as a result of soft domestic bookings. The worst part of the report was that its guidance for the second quarter called for an adjusted profit between $2.50 a share and $2.70 a share, well short of the $2.83 a share that the pros were targeting at the time.

Wall Street has gone on to hose down its forecast. It now sees priceline checking in with an adjusted profit of $2.65 a share. That's OK. It's considerably better than the $2.02 a share it posted a year earlier. Given priceline's history of landing ahead of the prognosticators, it's probably also a safe bet that the company was underestimating its actual earnings power three months ago.

YRC Worldwide is another company driving in the right direction. Don't let the pocket change price fool you. The trucker commands a market cap of roughly $400 million -- and an enterprise value of more than $1 billion once you factor in its debt load. Things can turn around in a hurry for YRC if it turns the corner of profitability and begins generating the kind of cash necessary to pay down its leveraged ways. It's not there yet, but the $0.08-a-share deficit that analysts are banking on would be its narrowest quarterly loss in two years.

Sirius XM Radio is the country's only satellite radio provider. It has posted three consecutive breakeven quarters, so an encore performance of $0.00 on the bottom line shouldn't surprise anybody. It has already announced chunky subscriber growth during the period, so the only burning question will be if this is a great quarter or merely a good one.

It has been nearly a year since Vonage's share price broke above the buck. It hasn't had to look back. The Web-based phone service should deliver its fifth consecutive quarter of profitability on Wednesday.

Finally, we have online jeweler Blue Nile on bended knee. The dot-com retailer has succeeded in getting consumers to trust it with big-ticket jewelry purchases through its website. It has sold a ton of engagement rings. Now that the economy is showing some degree of improvement, it's only natural to see a luxury e-tailer kick things up a notch.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
Investors in these seven stocks have a right to be excited. They are all improving their financial situations. They are worthy of the gains that the market rally has bestowed upon them over the past year.

I wouldn't be uncomfortable owning any of these companies. They're doing the right thing, regardless of Mr. Market's mood swings.

The expectations may be high, but these seven stocks wouldn't have it any other way.

Are you a buyer or a seller of stocks these days? Share your strategy in the comment box below.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. American Tower and Blue Nile are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Priceline.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz prefers to look at the bright side of life -- and strife. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.