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DuPont (DD - Analyst Report) is set to release its first-quarter 2014 results before the opening gong on Apr 17.  
 
In the last quarter, the chemical and industrial products giant racked up a roughly 7.3% positive earnings surprise on strength in its fast-growing agriculture business. Let’s see how things are shaping up for this announcement.
 
Factors to Consider this Quarter
 
DuPont is expected to see continued strength in its agriculture business. Healthy demand for its corn hybrids and strong growth in crop protection are expected to continue in the first quarter, supported by new products. 
 
Moreover, DuPont should also benefit from its aggressive cost-cutting initiatives. The company expects roughly $400-$450 million in cost savings from its restructuring and productivity improvement actions this year.
 
However, DuPont’s performance chemicals business remains a weak link. Demand of titanium dioxide (TiO2), which is used to give paint and other coatings a white hue, remains soft. 
 
While DuPont is spinning off the struggling performance chemicals unit (expected to close by first-half 2015), lower TiO2 pricing is expected to drag earnings for the division in the first quarter. Weak TiO2 pricing is expected to remain a headwind in the near term.
 
Earnings Whispers
 
Our proven model does not conclusively show that DuPont is likely to beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate in the first quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP (Expected Surprise Prediction) and a Zacks Rank of #1, 2 or 3 for this to happen. That is not the case here, as you will see below.
 
Zacks ESP: ESP for DuPont is 0.00%. This is because both the Most Accurate Estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate are pegged at $1.60.
 
Zacks Rank #3 (Hold): DuPont’s Zacks Rank #3 when combined with an ESP of 0.00% makes surprise prediction difficult. We caution against stocks with Zacks Ranks #4 and #5 (Sell rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions momentum.
 
Other Stocks to Consider
 
Here are some other chemical stocks you may want to consider as our model shows they have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:
 
Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (KRO - Snapshot Report) has earnings ESP of +8.33% and holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
 
LyondellBasell Industries NV (LYB - Analyst Report) has earnings ESP of +5.26% and sports a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
 
Huntsman Corporation (HUN - Snapshot Report) has earnings ESP of +2.50% and retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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