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Rules of the Game: Earnings Road Race

This article originally appeared on April 29, 2013 on Real Money. To read more content like this + see inside Jim Cramer's multi-million dollar portfolio for FREE. Click Here NOW.

It's another big week for earnings, with a little over half of the S&P 500 companies having delivered results thus far.

Analysts are eyeing an overall year-over-year decline of 0.04% for the companies remaining. Of course, companies often set low expectations, so they will have a beat when reporting time rolls around.

After Monday's bell, the beleaguered Herbalife (HLF) will deliver first-quarter results. Despite the fascination swirling around the company and the "he said, he said" battle between big activist investors, I'm just not interested. The stock continues to struggle, and even an earnings beat won't be enough to convince me of its viability at this time.

While the chattering class will undoubtedly be preoccupied with Herbalife, I'll be watching some S&P names that report after the close.

Hertz (HTZ) is one of our holdings. The stock has been delivering growth-style price appreciation since November. It's rallied above its 10-week average since then, rising to a new peak of $24.31 on Friday. Hertz is just on the verge of driving into large-cap land.

Rival Avis (CAR) is also trading in new high ground. It has a market capitalization of nearly $9.7 billion. It has excellent liquidity, moving about 7.9 million shares per day, on average. This stock, however, has a high beta of1.80. Trade has been orderly as Hertz rallied to new highs in recent months, but a glance at the chart shows some erratic trading patterns in the not-so-distant past.This type of action is maddening for traders. But for investors with a longer time horizon, it's often wise to sit through some corrections, and even view pullbacks as opportunities to add shares.

When Hertz reports after Monday's bell, analysts expect per-share income of $0.17 on revenue of $2.39 billion. Those would be increases over the year-ago quarter. Hertz beat views in each of the past four quarters.

Looking at the current price, many investors would probably conclude that a pullback is due soon. Perhaps, but take a glance at the price-to-earnings ratio of 17, which suggests that this stock is not yet in "priced for perfection" mode, and appears to have some driving room ahead. Hertz closed Friday at $24.19 a share.

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