From Post-It notes to LCD display technologies to medical products, you name it -- 3M (NYSE:MMM) does it. As for how well it does it, we'll find that out Tuesday before the markets open. Here's a quick rundown of what you'll need to know to put tomorrow's news in context.

Wall Street Wisdom:

  • General consensus. Of the 16 analysts following 3M, 10 rate the company a "buy," with the rest voting "hold." Not a "sell" in the bunch.
  • Revenues. Analysts will be looking for 3M to report $5.4 billion in sales tomorrow, a 6% increase over the year-ago quarter.
  • Earnings. They expect to see 3M report $1.03 in profits per share, a 13% increase over the year-ago quarter.

Margin Watch:
Want to know where 3M's business is headed? Figuring that one out requires knowing where the company is coming from. To that end, here are a few useful numbers from the past 18 months.

Mrg.

6/04

9/04

12/04

3/05

6/05

9/05

Grs.

50%

50.2%

50.2%

50.3%

50.3%

50.4%

Op.

22.2%

22.5%

22.9%

23.1%

23.3%

23.4%

Net

14.4%

14.7%

14.9%

15.2%

15%

15.1%

All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-months performance for the quarters ending in the named months.

As you can see, gross and operating margins have inched steadily upwards; net margin growth, however, seems to have stalled. Tomorrow, we'll be looking for the company to get the net moving again -- and in the right direction.

Key Ratios:
With 3M's projected earnings growth of 12% per annum over the next five years, you'd probably want its P/E of 19 and price-to-free cash flow ratio 17 to drop a bit before buying this one. Unless you're Philip Durell of the Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter, that is. Philip picked 3M for our portfolio back in August. Click here to learn why.

EPS trend