By Jonas Elmerraji
Posted at 10:25 p.m. on July 13, 2009

The markets continued their downward trend last week, spurred on by concerns over earnings and the state of the economy. The S&P 500 closed 1.93% lower on Friday. As we approach the coming week, all eyes are on where the market’s headed next.

Futures were mixed leading into Monday’s trading, giving rise to hopes that the market could turn things around and continue the rally that tapered off late last month. But while stocks fizzle, it’s a great time to take a look at rocket stocks -- beaten-down stocks with short-term catalysts for growth and long-term investment potential.

Before we get to this week's list, here’s a look at how last week’s rocket stocks have fared.

First on our list was Equifax (EFX), one of three companies consumers turn to when they want a credit report. We liked Equifax’s deep economic moats and rebound potential as the market for consumer credit starts to loosen back up. On Thursday, the company announced that it would be releasing its second-quarter 2009 earnings on July 22. Analysts expect the company to deliver 57 cents per share.

Equifax ended the week mostly flat, with a drop of 0.24%.

Insurer American Financial Group (AFG) had a markedly better week, with a gain of 2.43%. Like Equifax, the company announced its second-quarter earnings release this week, scheduled for July 28. But a bigger price driver was AFG’s selection to the 2008 list of Interactive Health Solutions’ “Healthiest Companies in America” last Thursday.

Stericycle (SRCL) is a medical waste company that we liked for the bottom-line boost that America’s aging baby boomer population is sure to provide over the next several years, not to mention its recession resistance. But while the company held up well through 2008, last week proved more challenging as the stock slid 2.47% under pressure from technical traders.

Last on the list was TiVo (TIVO). While the company took a hard hit last month thanks to legal woes, the market reacted a little too much, leading us to believe that the stock was bound to bounce back. That hope didn’t materialize last week, as the stock tumbled another 4.07%. Maybe next week will provide the jolt TiVo needs to get its share price back on track.

Now on to this week’s Rocket Stocks.

First on this week’s list is Apple (AAPL). With earnings scheduled for July 21 and a red-hot product right now in the iPhone 3G S, Apple stands a good chance of seeing its share price pick up as investor anticipation grows. After all, the company has a long track record of beating analyst expectations, and with current expectations ringing in at $1.15 -- lower than the company’s earnings over the course of the last five quarters -- the stock should see increased interest as July 21 approaches.

On Monday morning, Apple was trading up 25 cents at $138.77.

Our second pre-earnings rocket stock this week is Kellogg (K). The company, which plans to release its second-quarter earnings on July 30, is a market leader in many of the areas it operates in, and it should be able to keep its performance up even in the face of a recession. The company’s constant focus on developing new products should keep consumer demand high as they ride out the storm.

Kellogg was recently up 29 cents at $47.53.

While oil has seen a colossal rise and fall in the last two years, National Oilwell Varco (NOV) has seen more of the fall recently. The oil drilling equipment company saw its stock tumble 63% in the last year and still hasn’t come back. But with 90% of oil rigs approaching the end of their service lives, drillers are soon to be on the lookout for new equipment -- no matter what the price of oil is.

NOV looks like a huge value as drillers come back on the market. The stock was recently losting 98 cents, or 3.2%, to $29.49.

For more on these Rocket Stocks and the rest of the stocks that made this week’s cut, including Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY) and Global Payments (GPN), check out the " target="_blank">Rocket Stock Portfolio.

At the time of publication, the author had no positions in stocks mentioned.

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