The unofficial start to the Q2 earnings season will soon be upon us, but in the meantime, a handful of big names will be reporting their quarterly results next week. The earnings that these companies report may give investors an indication of what can be expected in July when corporate earnings will be released in full force. They may also have a significant impact on the stock prices of the companies reporting. Here are four stocks to watch next week.

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Fancy Footwork
After the market close on Monday, the sports apparel company Nike (NYSE:NKE) will check in with its fiscal Q4 results. The consensus among analysts is that the company will announce a 9.4% improvement in EPS on a 9.1% increase in revenue on a year-over-year basis.

Nike posted similar success in its Q3 as its EPS rose 7% on a 7% advance in net revenue. It also repurchased $468 million worth of company stock during the quarter as its stock price ticked up slightly.

On Wednesday, the consumer foods company General Mills (NYSE:GIS) will announce its fiscal Q4 earnings prior to the market open. Wall Street is calling for the company to report a 26.8% spike in EPS on a 2.9% upswing in total revenue versus the year-ago quarter. Both General Mills and competitor Kellogg (NYSE:K) are trading near their 52-week highs even as the companies face the prospects of rising input costs. (Companies can manipulate their numbers, so you need to learn how to determine the accuracy of EPS. For more, see How To Evaluate The Quality Of EPS.)

Harvesting Profits
The seed company Monsanto (NYSE:MON) will also release its quarterly results before the opening bell on Wednesday. Analysts are expecting the company to report a 37% jump in its fiscal Q3 EPS and a 14.2% pop in sales when compared to the prior year quarter.

Investors in the agriculture theme got a nice bounce on Monday when Agrium (NYSE:AGU) pre-released a better-than-expected EPS range for its fiscal Q2. The company said that recent growth is attributable to strengthening crop nutrient pricing. Shares of MON and AGU have fallen about 3% and 9.3% year-to-date, respectively.

One other stock for investors to keep an eye on next week is Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) as the company readies itself to announce its Q4 earnings after the market close on Thursday. The consensus is that the company will report a 23.5% surge in EPS on a 6.1% increase in total revenue when compared to the year-ago quarter. DRI shares have appreciated by 3.4% since the beginning of the year. (For related reading, see How To Pick A Stock.)

The Bottom Line
Next week we will get a taste of what to expect from the upcoming Q2 earnings season. Three of these companies should be serving up single-digit top-line growth while Monsanto is expected to tear the cover off the ball. Investors can use the information released in accordance with these earnings announcements to help forge a game plan heading into the heart of the earnings season. (For related reading, see Revenue Projections Show Profit Potential.)

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Tickers in this Article: NKE, GIS, K, MON, DRI

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