With hundreds of companies having already reported quarterly results, we're now in the heart of earnings season. The key to making smart investment decisions with stocks releasing their quarter reports is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Let's turn to Cummins . The engine-maker has rebounded sharply in recent months as the economy starts to pick up steam, but will Cummins be able to sustain its current trajectory? Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Cummins over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report Wednesday.

Stats on Cummins

Analyst EPS Estimate

$1.76

Change from Year-Ago EPS

(31.0%)

Revenue Estimate

$4.04 billion

Change from Year-Ago Revenue

(17.8%)

Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters

4


Source: Yahoo Finance.

Can Cummins keep revving up its stock?
Analysts aren't sure how well Cummins can keep up its fast pace of growth, having reined in their earnings-per-share estimates by $0.09 in the past three months. That hasn't held the shares back, though, with the stock up 17% since early November.

Cummins has a huge conventional engine business that is largely cyclical and dependent on economic conditions. Still, it has been able to gain a big edge over its competition, with rival Navistar actually using Cummins engines in order to meet EPA standards for tighter emissions control.

Yet the big growth driver for Cummins is coming from its push into natural-gas-powered engines. On one hand, its partnership with Westport Innovations helped get Cummins started on the path to viable natural-gas engines, with Ford having signed on to create F-250 and F-350 trucks using Westport technology. Even Navistar joined up with Clean Energy Fuels to encourage trucks using nat-gas engines from Westport and Cummins.

Cummins, however, has gone it alone in an attempt to build its own 15-liter natural-gas engine with Westport's help. That move may threaten Westport's relevance, but for Cummins, it marks an attempt to capture the entire vertically integrated nat-gas engine production cycle, and that could put it in a much stronger position.

Look for signs of how Cummins' various initiatives are going in its quarterly report. The long-term potential of nat-gas engines is far more important than a quarter's worth of earnings.

Learn more
Cummins and Westport Innovations have been linked together for a long time. Find out how Westport plans to move ahead even as Cummins goes in its own direction by reading our premium report on Westport. Inside, you'll learn more about how Cummins and Westport teamed up to take advantage of abundant, cheap, and clean natural gas. To get started, simply click here now for instant access.

Click here to add Cummins to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

The article Cummins Earnings: An Early Look originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Clean Energy Fuels, Cummins, Ford, and Westport Innovations. The Motley Fool owns shares of Cummins, Ford, and Westport Innovations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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