Earnings Trades for the Week

MINNEAPOLIS (Stockpickr) -- Earnings season is in full swing. Last week we had a number of key reports from some of the biggest and brightest stars in the market. Some of the results were good and some were bad.

2011 is shaping up to be a stock picker's market. Traders who can separate the winners from the losers are likely to deliver the best performance. If a company releases a better-than-expected profit number, its stock is likely to go up in value. With an earnings miss, shares are likely to plummet.

Apple ( AAPL) released results last week that blew away estimates. The company made a whopping $6.43 per share vs. the estimate of $5.40. That is the huge beat that I expected, but unfortunately it came on the heels of the announcement that Steve Jobs was taking a medical leave of absence.

Shares of Apple fell on that news and only managed a short-lived gain thanks to the earnings performance. A continuation of the selling on Friday resulted in Apple's actually losing market value as its reward for an earning blowout.

Related: David Tepper's Top Tech Stocks

Longer-term traders should use that selling as an opportunity to buy shares at a discount. Apple is worth a minimum of $400 based on its operating performance. The Jobs news is a nonevent, in my opinion.

Delta Air Lines ( DAL) fell hard after reporting its results. The big airline concern noted pressure from rising fuel prices. In response the company stated it would cut capacity if higher prices resulted in empty seats. I would avoid all airline stocks based on this report alone.

Given the recent run-up in shares of Charles Schwab ( SCHW), only a huge beat on the profit number could have moved shares further. The report was good, not great, and shares took a small step backward.

Goldman Sachs ( GS) reported a profit that beat estimates, but it was not enough to move shares higher as the revenue number missed expectations. Goldman traded lower initially but closed the week essentially on the flat line.

eBay ( EBAY) was a shining star. Its shares jumped by a dollar after it reported earnings that beat estimates by 5 cents thanks to stronger than expected auction sales. No innovation here, simply squeezing more juice out of the lemon. I'd use the gains as an opportunity to sell shares.

Here is a look at some of the companies reporting results next week.


Netflix ( NFLX), the video delivery company that destroyed the retail video distribution model, releases earnings on Wednesday. After the stock peaked above $200 per share, short-sellers have been on the attack, pushing the price to its current level of $182. Some suggest stock's the decrease in price is not over.

For insight on earnings, we can look to recent moves by the company. The decision to remove the DVD queue from mobile devices suggests that NFLX is turning its attention to streaming content. Customers may be a bit incensed by the move, but the change makes sense.

After dominating the mail delivery channel, winning the streaming battle against tougher competition will be trickier for Netflix. Certainly the victor in streaming will take home the spoils, but the space is attracting heavy hitters from cable and media companies alike.

A long streak of earnings beats was broken in the last quarter. Look for a repeat performance this go around. Analysts expect the company to make 71 cents per share. Anything less than a significant beat is likely to result in a decrease in share price.

Momentum stocks such as Netflix are vulnerable in the current market environment. My bet would be on a decline for Netflix.

Major holders of Netflix include Renaissance Technologies and Navellier & Associates. According to Jake Lynch, Netflix is one of the 30 worst-rated S&P 500 stocks for 2011, and Michael Shulman of InvestorPlace included it as one of nine cult stocks investors should drop. With a B buy rating from TheStreet Ratings, it's one of the top-rated Internet and catalog retail stocks.

Eastman Kodak

Eastman Kodak ( EK), the old industrial film giant, continues its turnaround. After a brush with death, the company has completely revamped its business model to adjust to a digital world. So far, the results are mixed.

It is never easy navigating a turnaround, and there are no guarantees. On one hand, the company has managed to survive and is now off life support. On the other hand, what are the true growth prospects for Eastman, and can the company make money for investors?

This week's earnings report will shed some light on that question. Analysts expect Kodak to show a minimal loss of a penny. That would give the company a profit for the year. 2011 is a bit more questionable because analysts expect Kodak to lose 15 cents per share.

The earnings report will likely include guidance for 2011. Bulls are hoping that the company can actually make money in the next year. We shall see.

For the quarter in question, analysts have been decreasing expectations over the past 90 days. At the start of the quarter, the estimate was for a profit of 8 cents a share. Kodak's share price, though, has been on a small ascent during that time.

After dipping below $4 per share in September of 2010, Kodak now trades above $5 per share. That is a hefty price for a company yet to prove it can be profitable on a consistent and growing basis.

I'd bet against Kodak next week as a miss is likely to be punished harshly.

Eastman Kodak shows up in the holdings of Bill Miller's Legg Mason Capital and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust. It's rated D sell by TheStreet Ratings.

AK Steel

Despite a growing economy around the globe, steel company AK Steel ( AKS) has seen its stock price slashed in the last year. That trend has continued in 2011, with AK down more than $2 so far. Goldman Sachs downgraded the company in early January.

During the third quarter, the company reported that operating results had swung to a loss, thanks in part to higher iron ore prices. Unable to raise prices to its customers, profit margin dipped. As a result, analysts slashed estimates for the fourth quarter to a loss of 63 cents a share.

With much of the damage now priced into shares, traders have an opportunity to profit should results beat estimates. With the economy stronger in the fourth-quarter volume and higher steel prices may have helped to offset higher iron ore prices.

The play here would be to bet on an earnings beat. Investors are very negative on AK Steel thus any beat is likely to result in a big gain. Longer-term growth in the U.S. combined with a stronger global economy bode well for steel in general.

I would own AK Steel in advance of earnings. If the company does simply meet or miss expectations the downside is likely to be minimal.

AK Steel was also one of the 30 worst-rated S&P stocks for 2011, as well as one of the 10 worst-performing S&P stocks of 2010.

To see these stocks in action, check out the Earnings Trades for the Week portfolio.

-- Written by Jamie Dlugosch in Minneapolis.


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At the time of publication, author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

Jamie Dlugosch is a founder and contributor to
MainStreet Investor and MainStreet Accredited Investor . Formerly, he was president and CEO of Al Frank Asset Management. He has contributed editorially to The Rational Investor , The Prudent Speculator , Penny Stock Winners and InvestorPlace Media .

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