Wall Street Watch this Week: Harvesting a New Quarter

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cornfieldAfter nine generally buoyant months, the fourth and final quarter of 2012 kicks off this week.

There aren't too many companies stepping up to report their quarterly results this week. Things will be generally quiet until earnings season kicks off in earnest later this month. However, anyone interested in agriculture will have Mosaic (MOS) and Monsanto (MON) reporting on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Mosaic is a leading producer of concentrated phosphate and potash crop nutrients. In other words, it's in the fertilizer business. Monsanto is the bigger name. The agrichemical behemoth arms farmers with bioengineered seeds as well as weed-killing chemicals.

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This may seem like a good time to invest in agriculture stocks -- emerging markets are growing, and that creates a greater demand for farmed food. However, analysts see both companies failing to keep up with last year's bottom-line results.

Analysts see Mosaic earning $1.16 a share, just short of the $1.17 a share it served up a year earlier. The news gets hairier at Monsanto, where Wall Street's looking for the chemical giant to post a loss that is roughly twice as large as the $0.22 a share deficit that it posted during the same fiscal quarter last year.

It may not be pretty, but at least investors will get a clearer snapshot of the industry this week.

Other Things Worth Watching

• Marriott (MAR) is another of the stocks checking in this week. The hotel giant spun off its timeshare and destination club business late last year, so investors are starting to see a streamlined hospitality player in action these days. As a global player, Marriott will naturally be feeling the sting of weakness in Europe. The corporate travel business has also been in a funk in recent years. However, this period covers the family travel-friendly summer period, so that's where Marriott's strength will have to come from in Tuesday's report.

• Family Dollar (FDO) also reports on Wednesday. It's probably not hard to imagine that discounters and thrift store chains have held up well over the past couple of years. Recession-weary shoppers are trying to get more bang for their bucks, and value-minded chains including Family Dollar are thriving. Wall Street's looking at a profit of $0.75 a share, well ahead of the $0.66 a share it earned a year earlier.
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