We finally have a date. Apple (AAPL) is inviting industry watchers to a media event Tuesday, obviously to introduce the new iPhone 5.
"Let's talk iPhone," reads the invitation, a not-so-cryptic tease about the rumored voice recognition enhancements in the new smartphone.
Journalists, analysts, and bloggers have begun to piece together details, but Apple is always good for a "one more thing" surprise or two. Then again, it's Apple. Even if this was just the iPhone 2G in new packaging, loyal fans would buy it and rave about its retro panache and throwback connectivity.
Now that Steve Jobs has stepped down, it will be interesting to see how Tim Cook is received by the audience as the permanent CEO. The pressure's on, especially now that the iPhone rollout has slipped from Apple's historical updates for the smartphone in June or July every year.
The iPhone 5 reveal isn't the only big happenings next week. Let's go over some of the other items that will help shape the week ahead once Monday rolls around.
Casual dining's margin diet: Shares of Darden Restaurants (DRI) -- the company behind Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, and snide foodie remarks -- took a hit after quarterly results on Wednesday.
Earnings slipped 6% at Darden, despite positive sales growth and healthy comps at two of its three flagship concepts. Margins went on a cruel diet, as food and beverage costs rose faster than sales at all three chains.
This is the unwelcome backdrop setting up rival Ruby Tuesday's (RT) quarterly report.
If Darden's report was bad, analysts feel that Ruby Tuesday's margins will be even worse. Wall Street sees a quarterly profit of $0.06 a share out of the restaurant operator, a far cry from the $0.17 a share it earned a year earlier.
Let's not assume that the pros are being overly pessimistic here. Ruby Tuesday has badly missed analyst bottom-line estimates in the two previous quarters. Check, please!
Monsanto's seasonally forgettable harvest: Don't be surprised to hear Monsanto (MON) posting a quarterly deficit on Wednesday. Cranking out seeds, traits, and crop protection chemicals is a pretty seasonal business. Monsanto has actually posted a loss in five of the past six fiscal fourth quarters, and the only time that it did sprout a profit was for a mere $0.02 a share.
Monsanto earned more than enough through the seasonally potent first three quarters; it can afford to take a quarter off.
However, investors will want to know why Wall Street feels that Monsanto will post its largest fiscal fourth-quarter deficit in ages. Analysts are forecasting a loss of $0.27 a share for the period, three times larger than its prior-year shortfall.
Rock 'em, sock 'em robots: Real Steel hits theaters a week from today, and there's plenty riding on the movie.
Every year, IMAX (IMAX) singles out a handful of movies that have blockbuster potential to be remastered for its super-sized theatrical experience. Beyond the film's dual screenings on both traditional and IMAX screens, the action flick comes out at a time when box office receipts have declined through the first three quarters of the year relative to 2010's take.
The trailer looks hokey to me, but battling robots are supposed to appeal to the audiences that have flocked to all three Transformers movies -- or two more than I bothered to screen.
Warehouse clubbing: Costco (COST) is one of the few companies posting quarterly results next week. The warehouse club has been a market darling over the years, but something happened a few weeks ago.
Jim Sinegal announced that he was stepping down as CEO.
Sinegal has been at the helm since 1988, when Costco merged with Price Club. One can argue that Costco is a well-oiled machine, and that it can weather a smooth transition at the top. We'll see. Sinegal steps down at the end of the year, so this may very well be his last conference call as CEO.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not owns shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Costco. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Costco, Apple, and IMAX, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple and a synthetic long position in Monsanto.