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Intuit to Show Gains for Itself, Small Biz

Analysts expect Intuit to report slow -- but steady -- returns in its fiscal fourth quarter earnings report today.



) -- Besides reporting a slow and steady return for investors later today,


(INTU) - Get Intuit Inc. Report

, the financial management software provider to small- and medium-sized businesses, should also shed some positive light on the nation's small business outlook.

Intuit, whose stock price is up

more than 28% for the year, is set to report its fourth-quarter and fiscal 2010 earnings report at market close today. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting the company to report a narrowing loss on earnings per share for the quarter -- a 10-cent loss as compared to a 17-cent loss in the year-ago period -- and revenues of $500.69 million, up from $476 million in last year's fourth quarter.

Analyst expect the company to post revenues of $3.42 billion for the year.



will be live-blogging Intuit's earnings this afternoon, along with results from


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starting at 3:45 p.m. ET.)

In contrast to

wary IT spending reports from giants like Cisco (CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems Inc. Report

, Intuit has been benefiting from this year's small, incremental uptick in small business buying, which -- let's face it - essentially had nowhere else to go but up coming out of last year's recession.

"Things are better than they were in `09," said Ray Boggs, a vice president at IDC who oversees the firm's small- and medium-sized business research. "While we're getting back to 2008 levels ... there's an explosion of growth that Intuit can benefit from."

Intuit, which enjoys an almost monopolistic grip on the small business accounting software market with its QuickBooks products, historically sees sales grow in tandem with the some 300,000 new small firms that start up each year.

But to find new growth beyond this market, which is just now coming off of heavy stagnation and losses thanks to the recession, Intuit has implemented a plan to chase a younger, more wired demographic, exemplified by acquisitions of new-media firms like

and by a hard push into mobile applications and social networks.

"Domestically, we believe there are 26 million small businesses and over 100 million households that are potential Inuit customers," wrote Cowen & Co. analyst Peter Goldmacher in a July note.

Goldmacher is just one of a handful of analysts who, ahead of the company's earnings, has rated Intuit as outperform.

Even so, Intuit, whose story investors are still just beginning to warm to, faces the same down-spending roadblock that

Cisco alluded to last week

. And some analysts warn that Intuit's intense connection to stressed small businesses make it especially vulnerable.

"The risks are a continued tension among small businesses who need to reconcile a real short-term focus with a long-term need for building a solid operation," said IDC's Boggs. "But in many respects, no one does it better than Intuit."

--Written by Maggie Overfelt in New York


Maggie Overfelt