Southwest Airlines Co. Fourth Quarter Earnings Release Ahead

S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) component Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) will unveil its latest earnings on Thursday, January 19, 2012. Southwest Airlines is a passenger airline that provides air transportation in the United States.

Southwest Airlines Co. Earnings Preview Cheat Sheet.

Wall St. Earnings Expectations: The average estimate of analysts is for profit of 6 cents per share, a decline of 62.5% from the company’s actual earnings for the same quarter a year ago. During the past three months, the average estimate has moved down from 7 cents. Between one and three months ago, the average estimate was unchanged. It has since dropped over the last month. For the year, analysts are projecting net income of 41 cents per share, a decline of 43.1% from last year.

Past Earnings Performance: The company topped estimates last quarter after missing forecasts the quarter prior. In the third quarter, it reported profit of 15 cents per share against a mean estimate of net income of 13 cents per share. In the second quarter, it missed forecasts by 6 cents.

Investing Insights: Will the iPad 3 Be the Next Catalyst for Apple’s Stock?

Wall St. Revenue Expectations: Analysts are projecting a rise of 32.5% in revenue from the year-earlier quarter to $4.12 billion.

Analyst Ratings: eight out of 15 analysts surveyed (53.3%) have a buy rating on Southwest Airlines.. This is below the mean analyst rating of 10 competitors, which average 62.9% buy ratings. Over the past 90 days, the average rating for the stock has moved up from hold to moderate buy.

A Look Back: In the third quarter, the company swung to a loss of $140 million (18 cents a share) from a profit of $205 million (27 cents) a year earlier, but beat analyst expectations. Revenue rose 35.1% to $4.31 billion from $3.19 billion.

Key Stats:

The company has enjoyed double-digit year-over-year percentage revenue growth for the past four quarters. Over that span, the company has averaged growth of 24.6%, with the biggest boost coming in the most recent quarter when revenue rose 35.1% from the year earlier quarter.

Southwest Airlines’ loss in the latest quarter followed profits in the previous three quarters. The company reported a profit of $161 million in the second quarter, a profit of $5 million in the first and a profit of $131 million in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year.

Competitors to Watch: AirTran Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AAI), JetBlue Airways Corp. (NASDAQ:JBLU), Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL), AMR Corporation (NYSE:AMR), US Airways Group, Inc. (NYSE:LCC), Allegiant Travel Company (NASDAQ:ALGT), Republic Airways Hldgs. Inc. (NASDAQ:RJET), SkyWest, Inc. (NASDAQ:SKYW), Alaska Air Group, Inc. (NYSE:ALK), and United Continental Hldgs., Inc. (NYSE:UAL).

Stock Price Performance: During December 14, 2011 to January 13, 2012, the stock price had risen 67 cents (8.2%) from $8.17 to $8.84. The stock price saw one of its best stretches over the last year between February 2, 2011 and February 11, 2011 when shares rose for eight-straight days, rising 7% (+81 cents) over that span. It saw one of its worst periods between July 19, 2011 and July 28, 2011 when shares fell for eight-straight days, falling 7.5% (-79 cents) over that span.

(Company fundamentals by Xignite Financials. Earnings estimates provided by Zacks)

Investing Insights: Here’s Why Chipotle’s Stock Keeps Winning.