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Loews Earnings Plunge; Pain-Free Push for Hertz?

First this morning is the property and casualty insurer Loews (L). The diversified holding company controlled by the Tisch familiy saw first quarter profit slide 15% from a year ago, due to write downs on a natural gas investment and weaker performance of its investment portfolio. Excluding items profits were down 34%. Loew's insurance business also saw improved underwriting results, but they were offset by higher catastrophe losses. The stock hit its 52-week high last Thursday but has slightly underperformed the market this year, up 7%.

Next up is Hertz (HTZ), which reports earnings after the closing bell. Analysts are looking for 17-cents a share, up from 5-cents a year ago on revenue that's expected to exceed $2-billion. Hertz has benefitted from consolidation in the car rental industry, and at this point it's the largest player and has just two major competitors. It also expects an increase in business from the improving economy. The stock jumped 2.5% on Friday setting a new 52-week high. It's up 44-% since the start of the year.

Now Baidu (BIDU), which dropped nearly 8% on Friday. The Chinese search giant came out with earnings that showed growth slowing. Baidu also faces increased costs as it pursues a push to buy-up mobile apps. Shares of Baidu are now down 18% year to date. They've actually dropped 36% over the last year.

Finally, Sears Hometown and Outlet (SHOS) which posts earnings today. This company was spun-off from Sears last November. It has about 950-stores nationwide. They sell things like home appliances, hardware, and lawn equipment. The stock was up more than 3.5% on Friday, meaning that shares are now 44% above their IPO price.

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