These three companies just didn't live up to Mr. Market's expectations last week. Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down.

Hills like white elephants
I'd be ignoring the white elephant in the room if I didn't look at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) today. The online search and advertising giant reported earnings of $4.43 per share, 39% higher than the 2006 holiday quarter, but one slim penny short of the analyst consensus target.

Fellow Fool Alyce Lomax pointed out that even the mighty G isn't bulletproof, as shown by up-and-down results over the last year. She also thinks that the coming months will be stormy, forcing the company to show that it can perform in bad times, too.

My crystal ball is in the shop for some minor repairs, but it's easy to see that Alyce is right. That moody Mr. Market will cast a sour sneer over Google for a while, with or without bad news on which to pin any sudden stock movements. Move, it will. Where, nobody can say. At least not over the short term.

Then again, Google is not about the short term. The top triumvirate of CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin have long-term goals in mind, and they plan to stay with the company for at least another 16 years to ensure that they raised it right. In the conference call, Page chastised the analysts for a tendency to "underestimate the long term and overestimate the short term for any new thing." He added, "I'm very optimistic long-term."

And I think it's that far-future focus that scared Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) so silly that it made a convulsive grab for Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) last Friday. Mr. Softy -- who hasn't been very good friends with that Market feller himself in recent years -- doesn't know exactly what Google has planned for 2015 or 2025, but it's something big and vaguely threatening to the incumbent software leader.

Short story long, we have a buy-in opportunity in Google after last week's myopic overreaction -- but a patient investor could probably find even better entry points before the next earnings report. You just have to gamble on finding the absolute bottom. That is not a very Foolish thing to do, if you know what I'm saying.

For whom the bell tolls
Another too-obvious candidate this week comes from the homebuilding sector. I owned a house built by Centex (NYSE: CTX) about four years ago, and I'm glad that the structure was much more reliable than the company's earnings. Even after more than a year of housing woes in the books, Centex still manages to shock the Street with every report, such as last week's $7.94 loss per share versus an expected $0.78 loss.

It was ten times as bad as analysts in the know would have guessed, in other words. To the company's credit, it has cut corporate overhead expenses in half since last year and managed a small positive cash flow from operations this quarter. But we're clearly a long way away from the end of this sordid story, unless Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL) can get a happier refrain started on Wednesday. My advice: Don't bet on it.

The old man and the sea
Our final frothy foible this week is the work of beery behemoth Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD), which reported earnings of $0.29 per share, while the consensus estimate had pointed to $0.32.

Management explained the shortfall with higher production costs and more expensive marketing, along with unusually weak results in China and Ireland. Now, earnings misses are nothing new for Busch, to the point where fellow Fool Rich Smith was shocked to see the company beating estimates for the previous quarter. The company is up against consolidation in the industry as Miller and Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP) are merging, and domestic players are bidding on hard-liquor assets.

Recession talk matters not to this company, since hard times might only drive people to drink harder. You can't go wrong with sin stocks in times like these. But Busch is looking shaky even now, and its grip on the American beer market may be slipping. Hold on to your Clydesdales, and watch how the less-fragmented market shakes out.

Islands in the stream
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which ones are stuck in the mud for real.

Further Foolish reading:

Seeking great deals on unfairly punished stocks? Philip Durell and his merry band of Fools at the Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter service are standing by to help you find great stocks at ridiculously low markdowns. Try a 30-day trial subscription to see whether bargain-hunting is right for you. Microsoft and Anheuser-Busch are recommendations from that analyst team, and Yahoo! is a former Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Google shareholder, but holds no position in any of the other companies discussed this week. He prefers ultra-premium vodka to watery beer, thank you very much. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.