BALTIMORE (Stockpickr) -- The market keeps rallying and the fundamentals keep improving as we enter the final week in April. With earnings season presently upon us, investors have been watching closely to see how Wall Street's expectations stack up against actual performance -- and so far, it's been an impressive matchup: 83% of reporting companies in the S&P 500 have exceeded earnings expectations this quarter according to data from Thompson Reuters.
With a slew of stocks set to announce their numbers this week, we're betting that earnings plays could provide the catalyst for an upward move. To that end, it's time to take a look at this week's Rocket Stocks plays.
If you're not yet familiar, Rocket Stocks are our weekly list of beaten-down stocks with near-term growth catalysts and long-term growth potential. They certainly live up to their name -- in the past 40 weeks, our list of intraweek plays has outperformed the S&P 500 index by 49.05%.
Here's a look at
Switzerland-based medical specialty company
has been a relatively weak performer in 2010, but that shouldn't stop the company from regaining lost ground in the latter half of the year. An earnings release set for after the market's close today could be the first step toward gains this summer.
Alcon specializes in the eye care market, manufacturing everything from drugs to surgical devices used to treat vision-related diseases. Ocular maladies have become increasingly prevalent the world over - and because they affect such a significant sense, treatments are a high priority for patients, a factor that works out in Alcon's favor.
The company has managed to leverage its market positioning in the past, delivering tick, double-digit margins in the past. An impressive R&D budget should help to propel the company's top line growth going forward.
I've long been a fan of investment manager
. Since the company took the title of the largest asset manager in the world -- with $3.2 trillion under management -- following its 2009 acquisition of Barclays Global Investors, the company has been adept at leveraging its strong brand and operational efficiency for the benefit of shareholders.
While BlackRock has primarily kept its focus on lower-maintenance institutional clients, the company's deep ties to the retail investment world could serve it well as it seeks new, more innovative channels for growth in the new decade. Don't be surprised if BlackRock starts to court retail investors in the near future.
But even for now, the company has options secured for increasing its earnings numbers. With the still-new Barclays acquisition adding revenue generation opportunities and significantly improved global reach this year, BlackRock is one of the few investment managers to watch as the rally continues its upward course.
announces earnings tomorrow, a move that should have much of Wall Street's attention - the $61.62 billion conglomerate has a long record of developing world-changing products, and transforming them into commercially successful ventures for the company's investors. Pay special attention to 3M's overseas growth.
By all accounts, 3M is a mature, financially healthy company that owns a significant portfolio of technological IP. But while that may sound like the bane of a growth investor's existence, 3M has actually managed to maintain surprisingly good growth numbers overseas despite its mammoth size.
To be sure, a sluggish economy both at home and abroad have taken a significant toll on a company that's otherwise relatively immune to the dangers of the business cycle. But a surprise outperformance in earnings numbers could be all this stock needs to make its way back to pre-credit crunch valuations.
For more stocks that made this week's cut, including
, check out the
At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.
Jonas Elmerraji is the editor and portfolio manager of the Rhino Stock Report, a free investment advisory that returned 15% in 2008. He is a contributor to numerous financial outlets, including Forbes and Investopedia, and has been featured in Investor's Business Daily, in Consumer's Digest and on MSNBC.com.