After a year of generally bullish trading, I hit the pause button on Friday when I singled out seven stocks that are projected to post lower earnings this week than they did a year earlier.

Thankfully, they appear to be in the minority. Now that the economy is showing more than a few signs of life, several companies are pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Earnings growth, my friend, is no longer an endangered species.

Let's go over seven companies that analysts see posting healthier bottom lines this week.


Latest Quarter's EPS (Estimated)

Year-Ago Quarter's EPS

Steelcase (NYSE: SCS)



Walgreen (NYSE: WAG)



Best Buy (NYSE: BBY)



General Mills (NYSE: GIS)



ConAgra Foods (NYSE: CAG)



lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU)



Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL)



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Clearing the table
Let's start at the top. Steelcase makes office furniture, making it a practically perfect way to check the pulse of Corporate America. Its chairs may very well make their way into homes and outdoor patios, but Steelcase is primarily seen as a maker of modern task and work chairs. Analysts think the company will break even with tomorrow's quarterly report. Nil isn't necessarily a cause for celebration, but it is when you posted a small deficit a year earlier.

Walgreen runs the popular drugstore chain. Filling prescriptions and selling last-minute greeting cards may seem like an all-weather business, but reality hasn't been as kind. Walgreen posted year-over-year profit declines during every quarter in fiscal 2009. Its fortunes changed when it posted results for its first fiscal quarter of 2010 three months ago. Wall Street expects a repeat performance this week.

Best Buy is the consumer-electronics giant that seemed to have it made when rival superstore Circuit City was liquidated 12 months ago. It was the heir apparent to Circuit City's market share, but a recession has a funny way of drying up demand for flat-screen televisions and appliances. The upside is that the pros feel that Best Buy grew its net income by 11% during the pivotal holiday quarter.

Anyone who pushes a shopping cart through a grocery store is no stranger to General Mills and ConAgra. Between General Mills' cereal lines and ConAgra staples including Banquet frozen dinners, Hebrew National hot dogs, and Peter Pan peanut butter, one can't load up a cart without those two food giants.

The challenge for these consumer brands during the economic downturn has been nurturing loyalty. Once money is tight, it's awfully tempting to bypass ConAgra's Hunt's ketchup and go with the cheaper store brand. Some food giants are holding up better than others. At least General Mills and ConAgra are growing their bottom lines this time around.

Upscale athletic wear for women is an unlikely success story during a cash-strapped recession, but lululemon's fancy yoga duds and its aggressive expansion strategy have added up on the bottom line. The retailer has beaten analyst guesstimates in each of the six previous quarters, even as it posted negative comps through the heart of that run. Same-store sales are now trending positive, so lululemon is a prime candidate to exceed the $0.29 a share that Wall Street is banking on.

Finally we have Oracle. CEO Larry Ellison's ego is legendary, but so is his company's ability to grow in all climates and consistently best analyst profit targets. Despite Oracle's gains over the past year, it is trading at only 13 times fiscal 2011's earnings projection.

Cross those fingers, but know the fundamentals
These aren't the only companies expected to post year-over-year gains this week. Several companies have either found ways to grow during the recession or have simply cut enough corners to show improvement on the bottom line.

This doesn't mean investors can rest easy. The bad news is that these companies are expected to post improving results. The optimism is already baked into their share prices, so it becomes easier for them to slip. But why begin worrying about the companies that we aren't supposed to be worrying about?

If analysts are doing a good job modeling their profit targets, we'll be just fine.

Which of the many earnings report due out this week are you looking forward to? Share your enthusiasm in the comments box below.

Best Buy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Oracle. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. That'll give you one less reason to worry about this week.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz prefers to look at the bright side of life -- and strife. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story and 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.