3 Stocks to Sell If They Crash on Earnings

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- In a companion article, I discuss five stocks that could be bargains if they experience weakness on earnings. Here, I consider three to stay away from, at least for the time being, if they fall hard post-earnings.

While a low-priced stock like Nokia ( NOK) could be a speculative buy and a powerhouse like Intel ( INTC) could be a screaming buy on downside, investors should run away from Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD).

Quick, without the assistance of Google, who is CEO at AMD?

Answer: Rory Read.

Not to knock Read, but he most likely was not AMD's first choice to replace Dirk Meyer. Executives from several large companies, including Oracle ( ORCL), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) and EMC ( EMC) turned the gig down.

First, it's a pretty bad sign when you can't get somebody to leave HP to come to your company. Second, the guy from EMC who spurned AMD, Pat Gelsinger, told The Statesman newspaper in Austin: "I said no, and I said no again."

AMD needed a prom date, so, at the very last minute, when all of the cheerleaders and football players had turned the company down, the Board chose Read. He came from Lenovo, where he performed well. He guided the company's entrance into mobile, which is probably why AMD looked at him. The Board ousted Meyer due to a disagreement over the company's mobile strategy. (Translation: There really wasn't one.)

About a year after Read's hiring, does anybody really think AMD can beat, let alone compete with, Intel and ARM in the mobile chip market?

Enough said. Right now, AMD equals a falling knife. On weakness, it's just that much closer to two bucks a share.

While AMD may never present as a buying opportunity, other stocks that report earnings over the next two weeks might. If AMD dumps on the most recent quarter's report, I would stay away.

Now, consider Apple ( AAPL).

A miss this quarter or anything construed by Wall Street as negative could send the stock reeling back below $600. Chances are we do not see a significant new product from Apple until fall. That's when the effects of Q3 (back to school) and Q4 (holiday shopping) start to impact Apple's September and January earnings releases.

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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