Even though second-quarter corporate earnings are expected to show one of the largest year-over-year increases in some time -- about 20%, according to Chuck Hill's recent article -- stocks have stumbled badly just as the reporting season is beginning to unfold. A flurry of unexpected warnings, mainly from tech firms, has undercut the recent trend of raised estimates, causing people to reconsider what now might be an overly optimistic outlook.

But the silver lining to the violent reaction seen in specific issues, such as the 25% decline in Veritas Software ( VRTS) or Wednesday night's schmiessing of Yahoo! ( YHOO), is that the simultaneous increase created in a broader volatility should offer a variety of trading and investment opportunities in the coming weeks.

Rather than making predictions regarding companies likely to provide earnings surprises , I'm using scheduled release dates to troll through a list of names that may be setting up for attractive risk/reward option positions. Below are five companies slated to report earnings in the next week, as well as suggested options strategies.

Note that the criteria used in selecting a strategy is based on current implied volatility, some technical analysis and broad macro trends where appropriate -- i.e., expected or actual earnings growth (or declines) don't enter into the equation. I'm not trying to game the response to the day of the earnings release, but instead I'm attempting to gain an edge based on the pricing of options in anticipation of the event. (I should disclose that I tend toward a contrarian view, meaning I favor buying stocks that are low and dropping, selling new highs, and expecting breakouts from flat trading ranges; those who like to see confirmations and momentum should click their mouse to another column now.)

The List, Please

Novellus Systems ( NVLS) is the first of the big chipmakers to officially reveal the state of the semiconductor industry when it reports on July 12. But it's already taken its knocks as expectations have been ratcheted down in the wake of recent warnings and lowered revenue guidance from names across the sector, including Intel ( INTC).

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