Five Must-Watch Earnings Releases

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We made it through this week, arguably one of the biggest weeks in technology earnings.

As more companies report, the texture of the marketplace changes and surprises tend to become more important. Many of the biggest moves occur after everyone thinks they have the market and earnings figured out, only to find that surprises should never surprise investors.

I have included five companies that I believe are must watch releases for the week of Oct. 29. I expect to trade any of the five, but of course, my longer time frame views have nearly zero impact on any given day, especially during earnings season. X Chart X data by YCharts

United States Steel ( X)

Background:US Steel produces and sells steel mill products in North America and Europe. The company operates in three segments: Flat-rolled products, US Steel Europe and tubular products. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, the company was founded in 1901. US Steel trades an average of 9.9 million shares per day with a marketcap of $3 billion.

52 Week Range: $17.67 to $32.52

Book Value: $24.48

Price To Book: 0.9

US Steel is forecast to record much lower third-quarter earnings when it reports premarket Oct. 30.

The consensus estimate is looking for a break-even, a drop from 72 cents a year earlier. Estimates range from a loss of 25 cents per share to a gain of 33 cents per share. It's one of the biggest ranges I have reviewed this earnings season. TheStreet's Tim Melvin writes about US Steel A Value Investor Goes Macro.

Analysts are taking as much of a stand as many candidates in Washington typically demonstrate on important issues. A hold can mean anything, but you may be well-advised to consider holds as glorified sell ratings. Lately, 13 out of 22 rate the company a hold, while 6 recommend buying and 3 recommend selling.

One out of 22 analysts now rate US Steel a strong buy down from two analysts a month ago. Compared to three months ago, fewer analysts are rating this company as a strong buy.

Shareholders have not been rewarded for their patience, and shares fell 12% in the last year; however, analysts have placed the average target price at $25.71.

Based on technicals US Steel has important attributes. The 200 day moving average is falling, and the chart is in a trading range. It's hard to get excited about heavy X with the current political landscape.

On the other hand, shareholders receive 20 cents a share in annual dividends. The yield based on a recent price is 0.9%. If you can pick up shares under $20, the yield improves dramatically, and the payout rate is low enough to expect the dividend to continue.

The short interest is not small for sure. When more than one out of every four shares available to trade is short, short sellers are smelling blood. The current float short is 27.3%. Short interest is not shrinking either. With more than 40 million shares short, there are only three periods in the last year with (slightly) higher short levels. In "short", the smart money is heavily betting against US Steel.

X Revenue Quarterly Chart X Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

CHK Chart CHK data by YCharts

Chesapeake Energy ( CHK)

Background:Chesapeake Energy buys, finds and develops production of natural gas and oil properties in the U.S. The company also offers marketing and other oilfield services. Founded in 1989, it's based in Oklahoma City. Chesapeake trades an average of 14 million shares per day with a marketcap of $13 billion.

52 Week Range: $13.32 to $29.87

Book Value: $22.37

Price To Book: 0.9

Chesapeake is forecast to record lower third-quarter earnings (along with just about every other energy company) on Nov. 1.

The consensus estimate is currently 10 cents a share, a drop of 62 cents (86.1%) from 72 cents a year earlier. Estimates range from one-cent a share to 15 cents per share. I would be surprised to see a loss, even if there is one. TheStreet's Sham Gad writes about Chesapeake Energy A Crucial Peek Into Their Portfolios.

Now 21 of 34 analysts rate the company a hold, while 12 recommend buying and one recommends selling. The average analyst target price for Chesapeake is $24.04.

Shareholders have been punished for their patience. Shares have fallen 28% in the last year, and that's after factoring in the price has bounced off the lows of April.

The chart is treading water with the price action flirting on both sides of the 200 day moving average. One bright spot, if the 60 day moving average crosses above the 200 day, it may turn into the price acceleration investors are hoping for.

Investors are receiving 35 cents a share in dividends for a yield of 1.7%. This year's estimated earnings of 45 cents a share results in a very high payout ratio. Next year the company is expected to earn $1.36 a share, but if oil and natural gas continue falling, that may quickly fall further. Just a week ago, the estimate was $1.39

Short interest above 10% should give pause to investors looking at this company. The current percentage of the float short is 13.7%, not unusually high for a stock that is as volatile as this one.

CHK Revenue Quarterly Chart CHK Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

XOM Chart XOM data by YCharts
Exxon Mobil ( XOM)

Exxon Mobil engages in exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas, petroleum products, as well as transportation and petroleum products. Exxon Mobil trades an average of 12.1 million shares per day with a market cap of $416 billion

52 Week Range: $73.90 to $93.67

Book Value: $35.27

Price To Book: 2.6

Wall Street isn't expecting much this quarter. Earnings are expected to come in below a year ago. Earnings announcement is premarket on Nov. 1.

The consensus estimate is currently $1.96 a share, a decline of 17 cents (8%) from $2.13 a year earlier. Analysts' estimates range as low as $1.79 per share up to $2.09 per share. Exxon is consistent with hitting estimates, and I am not expecting much of a surprise one way or the other. The real mover is energy prices, not earnings releases. TheStreet's Glenn Williams writes about Exxon Mobil Energy Politics Boils Down to Oil and Taxes.

Exxon is rated hold by 13 of 24 analysts, while 11 recommend buying and none recommended selling. Analysts may have missed a good one. In the last 12 months, the shares have really moved higher. The one year return is 12%, although the average analyst target price for Exxon Mobil is $93.88.

The company currently pays $2.28 per share in dividends for a yield of 2.5%. With Exxon currently on sale, and even trading under $90 today, now may be the right time to allocate capital in the energy space. The economy may not pick up, but with the Middle East a never ending powder keg in a lightning storm, you never know what may happen.

Short sellers are next to impossible to find. Short interest is so low I only include it to demonstrate the smart money is not betting against this company, with only 0.9% of the float short based on the last reported numbers.

XOM Revenue Quarterly Chart XOM Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

PCS Chart PCS data by YCharts
MetroPCS ( PCS)

MetroPCS, a wireless telecom carrier provides wireless broadband mobile services in the U.S. MetroPCS trades an average of 13.1 million shares per day with a marketcap of $4 billion.

52 Week Range: $5.53 to $14.51

Book Value: $8.60

Price To Book: 1.3

Strong third-quarter earnings growth is expected by Wall Street when the company reports earnings premarket Oct. 30. The consensus is 26 cents a share, a gain of 7 cents (26.9%) from 19 cents a year earlier. Analysts' estimates range from 18 cents per share to 34 cents per share. TheStreet's Christopher Versace writes about MetroPCS Nokia Is Almost Down for the Count.

As I write this, MetroPCS has 6 buy recommendations out of 30 analysts covering the company, 23 holds, and one recommends selling.

The one-year return is 16%, and the average analyst target price for MetroPCS is $12.36. Buyout frenzy put MetroPCS in play a couple of weeks ago, and if you bought shares in July, this is turning into a great holiday season. The merger with T-mobile doesn't take MetroPCS out of the picture, at least not for now.

MetroPCS misses, beats, misses and beats. It's a crap shoot what they will report, but guidance is key.

Short interest above 4% is not enough to sound the alarms, but above 5%, it places renewed hesitation in allocating capital in the company. Short sellers are among the brightest and most informed market participants, and if they turn sour on a company it is likely for a valid reason. If short interest ascends above 5%, you may want to scrutinize changes within the space. Otherwise, the prevailing 4.3% of the float short is relatively meager and not a major concern.

PCS Revenue Quarterly Chart PCS Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

AIG Chart AIG data by YCharts
American International Group ( AIG)

AIG provides insurance products and services in the U.S. and internationally. The company operates in three segments: Chartis, SunAmerica Financial Group, and Aircraft Leasing. AIG trades an average of 24 million shares per day with a marketcap of $60 billion.

52 Week Range: $19.96 to $37.67

Book Value: $60.58

Price To Book: 0.6

AIG will report third-quarter earnings after the market closes on Nov. 1.

The consensus estimate is currently 86 cents a share, up from a loss of $1.60 a year earlier. Analysts expectations range from 58 cents per share to $1.09 per share.

The last time AIG missed estimates was the year-ago period; otherwise, the last three quarters have crushed the estimates. In the last quarter's report, AIG made the estimates look silly, beating the mean estimate by more than 80%. TheStreet's Doug Kass writes about AIG in The Long Way.

Analyst opinion is mixed with this company. Most of the analysts surveyed don't believe a buy or a sell is currently warranted. Today, AIG has 11 buy recommendations out of 22 analysts covering the company, 11 holds, and no analysts recommend selling. The stock appreciated 38% in the last year, and the average analyst target price for AIG is $39.16.

The 60-day moving average is above the 200-day moving average, which is a classic bull trend. The moving averages are moving higher, and shareholders are happy. Trend followers love this pattern and will hold a position until a technical break results in a signal to exit. Unless of course you have owned AIG since 2007, and then no amount of bullish trends is going to help.

The last reported short interest is paltry and without reason to consider it a meaningful influence at only 1.4% of the average trading float.

AIG Revenue Quarterly Chart AIG Revenue Quarterly data by YCharts

At the time of publication the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.