Investing Ahead of Earnings: Family Dollar, Fastenal, Pier 1 Imports and Rite Aid

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Market volatility so far this year makes the beginning of the first-quarter earnings season difficult to handicap.

That's why investors need the discipline provided by technical analysis and the value levels at which to buy on weakness and the risky levels at which to sell on strength. Our guidance helps investors both before and after a company reports its quarterly financial results.

Today's Crunching the Numbers tables assess the stocks of four companies reporting this week. After the profiles, the first table provides the five major moving averages and stochastic readings. The second table provides earnings estimates, value levels at which to buy on weakness and risky levels at which to sell on strength.

Fastenal (FAST) ($50.84, up 7% year to date): Analysts expect the provider of industrial and construction supplies and tools to report earnings per share of 37 cents before the opening bell on Friday. The stock traded at its 2014 intraday low at $42.48 on Feb. 3, and then rebounded, crossing its 200-day simple moving average at $47.47 on March 5 and trading as high as $52.20 last Friday between annual levels at $49.31 and $56.12.

The weekly chart is positive with its five-week modified moving average at $48.86. A monthly value level is $46.05 with a semiannual pivot at $51.13 and weekly risky level at $52.53.

Family Dollar (FDO) ($58.74, down 9.6% YTD): Analysts expect the discount store chain to report earnings of 91 cents a share before the opening bell tomorrow. The stock has been below its 200-day SMA at $66.91 since Feb. 27, and traded as low as $57.28 on March 27.

The weekly chart is negative but oversold with its five-week MMA at $60.64. The stock has been trading back and forth around its 200-week SMA at $58.23 since March 25. An annual value level is $49.44 with a weekly pivot at $60 and monthly and quarterly risky levels at $62.39 and $63.51.

Pier 1 Imports (PIR) ($18.27, down 20.8% YTD): Analysts expect the retailer of home-furnishing products to report earnings of 40 cents a share before the opening bell tomorrow. The stock broke below its 200-day SMA at $21.16 Jan. 9, following a disappointing fourth-quarter earnings report. The stock traded as low as $17.32 on April 7, which is just above this month's value level at $17.27.

The weekly chart is negative but oversold with its five-week MMA at $18.99. Monthly and annual value levels are $17.27 and $15.10 with a weekly pivot at $18.91 and quarterly and semiannual risky levels at $22.27 and $27.01.

Rite Aid  (RAD) ($6.11, up 20.8% YTD): Analysts expect the drugstore chain to report earnings of 5 cents a share before the opening bell tomorrow. The stock set a multiyear intraday high at $7.05 on March 13, and it's now below its 21-day and 50-day SMAs at $6.54 and $6.30 and traded as low as $5.83 on Monday.

The weekly chart is negative with its five-week MMA at $6.27. My quarterly value level is $5.16 with weekly and monthly risky levels at $7.19 and $7.94.

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