Stocks ticked lower last week, as both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) shed less than 1%.
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Both indexes remain close to all-time highs, up about 10% so far in 2017.
Most of the investing world will be following product launch news from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) early in the week, and there are highly anticipated earnings reports ahead from Cracker Barrel (NASDAQ: CBRL) and United Foods (NASDAQ: UNFI). Here's what investors will be watching for in these announcements.
Apple's big unveiling
Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday that's widely expected to include the introduction of a new iPhone. Investors have pushed the stock sharply higher heading into this announcement. There are high hopes that likely aggressive design innovations in the new device, including 3D facial-recognition technology and support for augmented reality, will drive a major upgrade cycle for the company's most profitable product line.
This 10th-anniversary model could include a branding refresh, too, as Apple may jettison the "S" naming conventions it's been using since 2009. Finally, CEO Tim Cook may use the opportunity to launch a new Apple Watch and Apple TV box, or perhaps even surprise tech fans with an entirely new product.
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It will be hard for any device to live up to the hype and rumors that surround the iPhone 8 launch. Still, Apple's design wins could keep it firmly in the leadership position in the massive global smartphone industry.
Cracker Barrel's customer traffic trends
Cracker Barrel, the restaurant and retailing chain, will post fiscal fourth-quarter earnings results before the market opens on Wednesday. Shares have underperformed the market this year as the operations struggle through weakening industry trends. Cracker Barrel last posted a 2% dip in quarterly customer traffic. Its retail segment, which accounts for about 20% of the business, shrank by nearly 5%.
CEO Sandra Cochran and her executive team are confident in their ability to produce strong profits, though. Executives raised their full-year earnings outlook in late May and now see profit improving to between $8.25 and $8.35 per share -- up about 5% from the prior year. They're projecting lower sales growth, as comparable-stores sales shrink by 3.5% for the year.
Investors this week will be looking for signs of improvement over that result in Cracker Barrel's outlook for the coming fiscal year. They'll also be watching for news that the company's generous dividend will continue growing at its market-beating pace.
United Foods' grocery forecast
Organic-grocery specialist United Foods will post its fiscal 2017 results on Wednesday afternoon. Its business has been pinched by several negative industry trends lately, including price deflation and soaring competition. In response, United Foods has turned to acquisitions to keep the sales base rising. It just finished integrating the Haddon House business that it purchased in early 2016 for $220 million.
Executives are predicting that this buyout will help push revenue higher by about 10% for the full fiscal year to $932 million at the midpoint of guidance. That figure is below the $942 million that CEO Steve Spinner and his management team last forecast, though.
If the selling environment remains weak, it's likely that United Foods will issue a similarly conservative outlook for the 2018 fiscal year. Without healthy growth in the core business, the company might again be forced to look at potentially expensive outside acquisitions to bolster its market position.
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