7 companies in downward profit spiral

Phil Ashley | Stone | Getty Images

Investors can look past a bad quarter. Or two. But what happens when it turns into a bad habit?

Investors are zeroing in on seven big companies that just reported, not their first, not their second, but sixth-straight calendar quarter of lower adjusted profit, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ. The list includes companies like restaurant chain Darden Restaurants, oil company Chevron and software maker Adobe Systems.

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The stocks on the downward spiral are mostly familiar. Chevron reported 22% lower adjusted profit in the first quarter. That comes after a 4% decline in the fourth quarter. Lower prices and production hurt.

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Then there's the Olive Garden and Red Lobster king: Darden. Investors choked on the company's 30% lower adjusted quarterly profit in the first calendar quarter. Don't blame the weather for scaring people away from popcorn shrimp. Earnings have been falling for more than a year. Don't expect a Darden to catch a turnaround this year, analysts say.

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So far, investors don't appear to disturbed by these companies' trend record of lower profit, as an equal-weighted index of these seven is roughly tied with the performance of the S&P 500 since June 2012:

Chart source: S&P Capital IQ

It's not all doom and gloom. Analysts say adjusted earnings for all big companies is up 3.3% during the quarter. But not these companies, listed below, that posted lower adjusted quarterly profit for each of the past six-straight quarters:

% ch. adjusted net income Q1 (cal.)
Darden DRI -29.80%
Laboratory Corp. LH -26.00%
Chevron CVX -22.30%
Adobe Systems ADBE -19.40%
Seagate Technology STX -12.40%
Western Union WU -12.00%
Hudson City Bancorp HCBK -10.50%
Source: S&P Capital IQ, USA TODAY research

By Matt Krantz of USA Today



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