3 Predictions for This Week

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I went out on a limb last week and came out with mixed results.

  • I predicted that Sonic (NAS: SONC) -- home of the drive-in fast-food chain serving up taters bathed in chili and cheese sauce -- would come up short in its latest quarter. It had missed in two of its three previous quarters. It wound up earning exactly the $0.09 a share that Wall Street was targeting. I was wrong.
  • I predicted that the S&P 500 would close higher for the week, getting the year off to a positive start after a flattish 2011. The popular index rose in three of the abridged trading week's four days, landing a 1.6% gain on the week. I was right.
  • My final call was for Monsanto (NYS: MON) to blow past analyst bottom-line estimates the way the agrichemical and seed giant has done over the past year. This one was easy. Monsanto earned $0.23 a share, well above the $0.16 a share in net income that the pros were projecting. I was right.

Two out of three? I know that I can do better than that.

Let me once again whip out my trusty, dusty, and occasionally accurate crystal ball to make three calls that may play out over the next few trading days.

1. Acuity will come up short in its latest quarter
Acuity Brands (NYS: AYI) hasn't been very illuminating for investors lately. The lighting specialist has come up short in three of its past four quarters.

Lighting is something that would seem to be recession-resistant. If a light bulb goes out, it needs to be replaced. However, Acuity's solutions are bigger than that. We're talking about the actual lighting systems, and when a company is strapped for cash, the last thing it's going to spring for is innovative OLED or LED lighting fixtures that dovetail perfectly with the working environment.

Between cash-strapped governments holding back on lighting improvements and uncertainties at the corporate level, it's hard to get too excited about Acuity in the near term. Acuity may be a long-term winner, but I see it earning less than the $0.67 a share that Wall Street is expecting out of it on Monday.

2.The NASDAQ Composite will beat the Dow this week 
There's nothing wrong with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) if you love 30 of the chunkiest old-school companies on the planet. I believe that tech stocks will drive this market higher, so I'm going to go with tech-centric NASDAQ instead.

Why tech this week? Well, the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off on Tuesday, giving gadget geeks like me a taste of what's to come this year. It also only helps that the North American International Auto Show shifts into gear in Detroit this week, showing the world how dashboard tech continues to evolve.

In short, there's going to be a lot of technology companies generating headlines this week. During what is the last quiet week before earnings season kicks in, these will be the items that drive stocks. Whether it's an up or down week, I see the NASDAQ performing better than the Dow.

3. Lennar will beat Wall Street's earnings estimates
I am certainly no bull when it comes to housing. I believe that housing prices will continue to inch lower, especially when these unsustainably low lending rates begin to inch higher. We have a glut of existing houses that need families who can afford them, so there's not a whole lot of demand for freshly constructed digs deeper into the suburbs.

However, some homebuilders are better than others. Lennar (NYS: LEN) is one of the smarter players here. It has managed to turn a profit consistently over the past six quarters, proving that you can make money even in this problematic climate.

Another thing Lennar has done well is consistently land ahead of the pros.

If analysts say the company earned $0.17 a share in its latest quarter, I'll whip out a "greater than" sign. History's on my side!

One of my best tricks to beating the market is finding stocks that perpetually land ahead of the prognosticators. Let's go over the past year of earnings reports.

Quarter

EPS Estimate

EPS

Surprise

Q3 2011$0.10$0.1110%
Q2 2011$0.04$0.0775%
Q1 2011($0.05)$0.14380%
Q4 2010$0.03$0.17467%

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Everything seems to be falling in place for another strong quarter out of Lennar on the bottom line.

Well, that's three predictions right there. Let's see how I fare this week.

If you like to stay on top of what happens next -- and I'm guessing you do, because you're reading this article -- how about checking out Motley Fool's top stock for 2012? It's a free report, but only for a limited time, so check it out now.

At the time this article was published Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a synthetic long position in Monsanto. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors.Longtime Fool contributorRick Munarrizcalls them as he sees them. He owns no shares in any of the stocks in this story and is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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