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Earnings Season Moves Into Crucial Consumer Brands

Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
Getty Images
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Earnings season is moving into consumer brand territory, and the reports will provide a strong indication of the overall economy.

Several big consumer brands announce results, including Walt Disney after the closing bell on Tuesday.

"Iron Man 3" is a big success at the box office right, but the focus of Disney's earnings report will be on how its theme parks and TV networks performed last quarter, especially ESPN, which is arguably it's most valuable TV asset. Wall Street is looking for Disney to report fiscal second quarter revenue of $10.485 billion and earnings of $0.76 according to Thomson Reuters. Disney's stock is up 26 percent this year.

"Investors will likely be focusing on theme park margins and ESPN trends. We also expect further discussion of the impact of the new "Magic Bracelets" which we believe can meaningfully increase park attendance and per capita spending, and more details on the Lucas film acquisition which is now planning to add a Star Wars original or derivative film each year beginning in 2015," Evercore media analyst Alan Gould said in a research note.

(Read More: What to Expect From Disney's Earnings)

In addition, more consumer sentiment trends will likely be teased out of food companies Whole Foods Market and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreo cookies. Both companies report after the close on Tuesday. Many analysts are looking to see how these companies are faring in the wake of rising grain prices and how they're managing costs, as well as how consumers are spending.

Thomson Reuters estimates that Whole Foods will report $3.028 billion in revenue and $0.73 a share in earnings for its fiscal second quarter.

Particular attention will go to Whole Foods and Mondelez in the wake of weaker-than-expected results Monday from Tyson Foods. The nation's largest meat producer missed its mark in part because shoppers and restaurants switched from beef to chicken in order to save money. Shares of Tyson fell more than 3 percent on the news.

The Big Picture

Overall, said Gregory Harrison, corporate earnings research analyst for Thomson Reuters, "earnings growth has been better than estimated at the beginning of the season, rising from an estimated 1.5 percent at the beginning of April to 5.2 percent today."

(Read More: LinkedIn Earnings Beat; Outlook Falls Short)

Harrison also noted that what we've seen from companies so far is in line with seasonal expectations. "It's typical for more companies to beat estimates and for the earnings growth estimate to increase throughout earnings season," he said. "So this tells me that as far as bottom line results go, this is a fairly typical quarter even though growth is lower than normal."

However, while bottom line growth trends are intact, many investors look to top line results to get a sense of the broader economy. Companies can manage their bottom line by cutting costs, but revenue trends tell us more about the consumers' willingness to spend. So far, fewer than half of companies that have reported have beat revenue estimates, and that's a concern, Harrison said.

"Typically, 62 percent of companies beat on revenue. Currently, the estimate is for no revenue growth compared to the year-ago quarter. This does not inspire much confidence in the quality of the earnings growth we are seeing. Since the top line isn't growing, the only way for earnings to grow is by reducing expenses, which can only happen for so long," Harrison said.

As for the rest of the season, Harrison said more of the consumer-focused companies will be reporting and what they say will be key.

"The consumer discretionary sector has been expected to be one of the stronger sectors in terms of earnings growth, so it will be interesting to see if the retailers live up to expectations as they begin to report," he said.

_ By CNBC's Jackie DeAngelis. Follow Jackie on Twitter: @JackieDeAngelis.

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