Who Will Rule the Dow This Week?

It's that time again, folks -- earnings season. Last week, we saw Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) component Alcoa start the action. Of course, investors in any company want to stay up to date on what their favorite stocks have in store. So in that spirit, here are the Dow stocks that report earnings this coming week and what investors should expect from them.

And the winners are ...
Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) leads the charge, reporting its fourth-quarter earnings this Thursday. Analysts expect the tech giant to earn $0.76 per share on revenue of $20.9 billion. This equates to nearly 5% top-line growth, which, considering the degree to which Mr. Softy missed the mobile party, isn't all that poor. In fact, Microsoft made its most serious venture into the mobile arena this past week with the launch of its Windows Mobile software devices with hardware partner Nokia (NYS: NOK) . The event took place at center stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where CEO Steve Ballmer made the keynote address that centered largely on its mobile foray.

IBM (NYS: IBM) also releases its earnings on Thursday. Wall Street expects the venerable technology powerhouse to earn $4.62 per share. On the revenue side of things, analysts expect Big Blue to generate $29.7 billion, growing 2.5% over the same quarter last year. IBM had a great 2011 and shows no signs of putting on the brakes in 2012. The big-time beneficiary of the software, hardware, and consulting virtuous circle, Big Blue appears perfectly poised to meet its ambitious goal of doubling its revenue by 2015, a goal it set in motion in 2010.

Lastly, and in keeping with the theme of mature industry leaders, economic bellwether General Electric (NYS: GE) reports on Friday. Analysts' average expectation is $0.38 on revenue of $40.2 billion. This equates to a roughly 2.9% decline in revenue when compared with the same quarter in 2011. The company, having largely put the mess surrounding the financial crisis behind it, made some interesting long-term bets in 2011, especially in energy.

Foolish bottom line
As ardent investors for the long term, we Fools have mixed feeling about earnings season. Obviously, we strongly advocate staying informed and up to date about the issues driving your investments forward. But investors need to walk a fine line in dealing with companies and their quarterly performances. All companies, no matter how outstanding, encounter the periodic headwinds. If a company misses its estimates by a penny or two, what does that really mean for its long-term prospects anyway? Not much. So take these figures with a grain of salt, approach this quarterly ritual as a checkup, and leave it at that.

One way to win over the long term is to find companies at the forefront of broad, game-changing trends. And if that's what you're looking for, there isn't a much more surefire trend out there right now than the boom currently under way in mobile technology. In that vein, The Motley Fool recently compiled a research report detailing three hidden companies that are leading the mobile revolution. And better yet, we made it free to our readers, so access your free copy today.

At the time thisarticle was published Andrew Tonner holds no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and IBM. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. 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. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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