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3 Stocks to Sell If They Crash on Earnings

Stocks in this article: AMD AAPL NFLX NOK INTC

But strong sales of reiterations of existing product lines only tell part of the story. If iTV does not knock the public's socks off, it will plant the seed that Apple's future might not be so bright. And at day's end, isn't that the reason why AAPL has stagnated? There are concerns about the company's ability to out-innovate going forward. Until that gets cleared up, Apple might be a good day or swing trade, but might not be a long-term investment.

Certainly, the uncertainty over Apple's future line doesn't go over well with the company's bulls, who likely represent the majority opinion. You will not find difficulty, however, achieving consensus about uncertainty at Netflix (NFLX).

This quarter could go down as one of the most important in the company's history. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings publicized a company milestone on his Facebook page recently. For the first time ever, users of the Netflix's streaming service watched over 1 billion hours of programming in a single month. This took place in June.

Did Hastings release this news ahead of earnings as a way to foreshadow blow-out results or was he trying to set up a soft landing in the event Netflix reports an expected quarterly loss alongside -- and this is key -- weak, stagnant or, worse yet, decreasing subscriber numbers?

That's what we need to know.

After calling the play-by-play on Netflix's implosion prophetically throughout 2011, I'm not as bearish as a I once was.

I sense a slowdown in spending, which might signal a strategic shift. (I get into that in the above-linked article). I have re-subscribed to the service. I'm impressed with the content, particularly the documentaries. But, I am hardly a heavy user. In fact, I'm lucky if I watch something on Netflix once a week. If I viewed more content, I wonder how long it would take to run out of things that interest me.

In any event, the momentum Netflix enjoyed as it ran past $300 last year fell apart in short order. It took Katie Holmes longer to run away from Scientology. NFLX momo is all but gone.

If Netflix does not deliver on this report, the stock heads below $50 a share over the next several months. It would then take extraordinary news for it to break out again. In other words, this month's earnings report must justify the recent run-up in the stock. If it doesn't, the bottom falls out. You do not want to be a part of that chaotic exit.

Out of the bunch, Apple, of course, offers the most certain stock going forward. AMD, the least certain. Netflix fits somewhere in between. In the near-term, I would stay away from all three names for at least a few weeks if their respective earnings reports underwhelm investors.

At the time of publication, the author was long INTC.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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