The earnings calendar is full next week, as some companies that report on a calendar year basis still haven’t released fourth quarter results. Retail reports, though, pick up after Walmart (NYSE:WMT) released earnings this week.
Overall, the roster is broad and deep, with multiple companies reporting in seemingly every major sector. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Dell Technologies (NYSE:DELL) and VMWare (NYSE:VMW) will try and drive a rally in IT stocks. Meanwhile, Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN) and Shake Shack (NYSE:SHAK) highlight performance on opposite ends of the burger market.
There’s also American Tower (NYSE:AMT) and Crown Castle (NYSE:CCI) in cellular infrastructure. Mylan N.V. (NASDAQ:MYL) and Mallinckrodt (NYSE:MNK) will try and maintain cautious optimism toward generic drugmakers. Media companies Discovery Communications (NASDAQ:DISCA) and AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX) have a tougher path after ViacomCBS (NASDAQ:VIAC,NASDAQ:VIACA) disappointed on Thursday.
However, there are even bigger earnings reports out there this week. Not all necessarily can move the market on their own. Taken as a whole, though, they might well signal where this choppy market is heading.
With that, let’s take a look at the top seven earnings reports were watching for next week.
Earnings Reports to Watch: Palo Alto Networks (PANW)
Earnings Report Date: Monday, Feb. 24, after market close
We’ve been here before with Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW). Shares have tested current levels around $250 multiple times going back to fiscal second-quarter earnings almost a year ago.
In fact, PANW stock was at basically the same price before November’s Q1 release. Shares, however, promptly dropped 12% on the back of disappointing guidance.
There’s certainly a path to a breakout for PANW if earnings impress, as shares do trade at about 40x next year’s earnings estimates. But in this market, and with the long-term opportunity for cybersecurity, that multiple no doubt can expand. Investors simply haven’t quite found a way to fully trust Palo Alto.
However, a big report could change that.
This is an important report for the cybersecurity sector as well. After struggling with its own resistance, the ETFMG Prime Cyber Security ETF (NYSEARCA:HACK) has broken out to new highs. Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) reportedly is considering an acquisition of FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE), and other smaller players could be in play too.
If the sector’s leader can raise expectations, the news for the space will get even better.
Home Depot (HD)
Earnings Report Date: Tuesday, Feb. 25, before market open
What’s interesting about fiscal fourth-quarter earnings from Home Depot (NYSE:HD) is that the news isn’t likely to be good — and investors already know that. Home Depot has cut guidance for fiscal year 2019 — which ended last month — twice, including after November’s third-quarter report. It also delivered a surprisingly soft outlook for FY2020 in December.
The market doesn’t seem terribly worried, as HD stock trades at an all-time high heading into Tuesday morning’s release. Shares have also gained 12% already in 2020.
However, that combination seems to raise some risk for Home Depot stock next week. There’s likely little room for error, as Home Depot can’t miss guidance that’s already disappointed. And it’s hard to see how investors get more bullish. The rally in HD already prices in a return to long-term growth, so a short-term beat shouldn’t necessarily get rewarded.
Of course, in this market, it might be. So if it is, the sector and maybe even U.S. stocks more broadly might have more room to run.
Earnings Report Date: Tuesday, Feb. 25, after market close
I’ve long argued that Salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) is an excellent barometer for market sentiment. There’s little doubt about the quality of Salesforce.com as a company. However, the argument over Salesforce.com as a stock thus largely comes down to price.
The reaction to Tuesday afternoon’s report looks particularly interesting in that context. Salesforce earnings almost certainly will top Street estimates, as the company hasn’t missed on either line in four years. And CRM stock has broken out of late, gaining almost 20% since mid-December.
After those gains, the stock isn’t cheap at around 61x forward earnings.
Of course, it shouldn’t be cheap. But the interesting question the market will answer next week is just how expensive the stock should get.
Earnings Report Date: Wednesday, Feb. 26, before market open
The fourth quarter earnings release from Lowe’s Companies (NYSE:LOW) might not have the broad effect of other reports next week. But it’s certainly a key report for the company itself.
Lowe’s is trying to catch up with Home Depot, and is showing some progress on that front. And with Home Depot’s results softer than investors hoped, Lowe’s has a chance to change the narrative.
A big quarter wouldn’t just show that Lowe’s is posting strong growth. It would suggest the gap between the two companies is narrowing. With LOW trading at 19x forward earnings and HD over 23x, the valuation gap narrows in that scenario as well.
Lowe’s stock has underperformed Home Depot stock for years now. So if that’s going to change, Wednesday morning’s report would be a good place to start.
Earnings Report Date: Wednesday, Feb. 26, after market close
Square (NYSE:SQ) is one of several stocks that will test sentiment toward growth stocks in tech. Box (NYSE:BOX) also reports Wednesday afternoon, while The Trade Desk (NASDAQ:TTD) and Workday (NASDAQ:WDAY) follow the next day.
Overall, it’s Square’s report that is the most interesting. After underperforming in 2019, SQ stock has soared in 2020, gaining 33%. Shares have moved to a 52-week high, and have their sights set on October 2018 highs right at $100.
So, here, too, investor reaction should be watched closely. Payment stocks on the whole have been strong performing, and a solid report and/or a positive reaction would imply more strength ahead for the sector. But for Square stock itself, investors should focus not necessarily on fourth quarter numbers — but guidance for Q1.
Last year, Sqaure established an odd pattern of beating estimates with its results and missing with its guidance. With SQ stock up 33% YTD, a return to that pattern likely leads to a big post-earnings decline. And that decline would bring names like PayPal (NASDAQ:PYPL) along with it.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD)
Earnings Report Date: Thursday, Feb. 27, before market open
There isn’t a major company with earnings next week that more desperately needs a win than Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD). Investors gave BUD a second chance last year, bidding the stock up to $100 after a late 2018 dividend cut. But performance hasn’t been good enough since, and BUD is threatening to return to multi-year lows.
Collectively, Anheuser-Busch simply needs to show some sort of growth in Q4. The balance sheet remains overleveraged after the acquisition of SABMiller, and craft beer growth pressures brands like Budweiser. Hard seltzer represents another competitive threat, but it’s privately held Mark Anthony Brands and Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM) dominating that market at the moment.
The concerns facing Anheuser-Busch are real, and the selloff into earnings makes some sense. If the company can’t find a way to show it can at least survive in this environment, the fade in BUD stock will continue.
Earnings Report Date: Thursday, Feb. 27, after market close
Thursday’s earnings for Chinese search giant Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) would have been important in a normal environment. BIDU stock fell off a cliff in 2018, and touched a four-year low in August of last year as growth turned negative.
However, shares have recovered amid hopes for a turnaround. Baidu has released preliminary numbers for the fourth quarter which show a return to revenue growth and a huge spike in earnings. There’s some reason for optimism toward a stock that still is down half from early 2018 levels, and thus still has room to continue a 36% rally from those August lows.
Of course, the coronavirus from China hovers over the report. And so as with some other big reports next week, it’s guidance and investor reaction that will matter more than the numbers themselves.
Investors have remained patient with Chinese and U.S. stocks despite the spread of the new virus. After-close reports on Thursday from both Baidu and streaming video play iQiyi (NASDAQ:IQ) will test that patience.
After spending time at a retail brokerage, Vince Martin has covered the financial industry for close to a decade for InvestorPlace.com and other outlets. As of this writing, Vince Martin did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.