Alcoa (NYSE: AA) will kick off the "official" Q3 earnings season on October 7, but prior to that some major corporations will be announcing their own quarterly earnings results in the trading sessions leading up to Alcoa. Here's what to expect in the days ahead.

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Clawing Back
Investors in Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) experienced a significant hit when the economic downturn initially struck, but the stock has since set a new 52-week high. The company, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and several other restaurant chains, has not been as hard hit by the recession as one might have otherwise expected. When the company reports its fiscal Q1 results on Tuesday, analysts will be looking for Darden to check in with an 8.2% rise in EPS on a 1% increase in sales.

The company is coming off of a relatively strong Q4 in which diluted net EPS from continuing operations rose 21% on an 8% gain in quarterly sales. The steady results enabled Darden to up its quarterly dividend payment by 25% and its stock now yields shareholders 2.8%. In fiscal 2009, the company spent $145 million in repurchasing 5.1 million of its common shares.

Holding Up
(NYSE: NKE) is another company that has felt the ill-effects of the slowdown in consumer spending, yet has held up relatively well. Wall Street is expecting the company to experience a slight downtick in its fiscal Q1 EPS on a 9.9% decline in sales when it too reports results after the market close on Tuesday. Nike reported future orders for its footwear and apparel, scheduled for delivery from June 2009 through November 2009, totaling $7.8 billion. This amount was 5% percent lower than orders reported for the same period last year after factoring in adjustments for currency fluctuations.

Vital Signs Strong
Since the close of the 2008 calendar year, Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) has seen its monthly sales numbers come in above prior year results - due in part to new store openings. The company now has 8.6% more stores in operation when compared to a year ago. Comparable pharmacy sales increased 3.8% in August versus the prior year and now make up approximately two-thirds of the company's total sales.

When the drugstore chain releases its fiscal Q4 results before the market open on Tuesday, analysts will be expecting the company to experience a 13.3% decline in EPS, but a 7.4% rise in sales on a year-over-year basis. Year-to-date, shares of Walgreen have climbed nearly 40%.

In Q3, Accenture (NYSE: ACN) saw its top line results get pinched, but the consulting firm was still able to increase its operating margins. Analysts are expecting the trend to continue when Accenture reports its Q4 results on Thursday. Sales are projected to be down 14.5% from the firm's year-ago quarter. (For more on analyst expectations, be sure to read Analyst Forecasts Spell Disaster For Some Stocks.)

The Bottom Line
Q3 earnings in general could get a little bit dicey when compared to prior year results, although these four large cap companies should fare just fine. They have felt the impact of the economic downturn to some degree, but will likely hold up better than most of their competitors.

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Tickers in this Article: AA, DRI, NKE, WAG, ACN

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