Martha Stewart Living to Post Earnings Thursday

As a jury prepares to decide Martha Stewart's (search) fate, Wall Street will be scrutinizing financial results of the homemaking icon's namesake company Thursday.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO) said it would release 2003 fourth-quarter results before the stock market opens Thursday. Jury deliberations in Stewart's obstruction-of-justice trial are expected to begin Wednesday, following closing arguments that began Monday.

Stewart's legal woes have taken a toll on her media and merchandising company, which publishes magazines and sells household items at Kmart stores. Advertising and readership are down sharply at the flagship Martha Stewart Living magazine.

Martha Stewart Living is not accused of any crimes, but analysts say its future could be on the line in the trial because the company is so closely tied to Stewart's personal image.

Analysts, on average, expect the New York-based company to post a fourth-quarter profit of 6 cents a share, unchanged from year-earlier results, according to research service Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc. The company reported a loss in the third quarter of 2003.

Shares in the company have climbed about 40 percent since the end of December, reflecting apparent optimism about the outcome of Stewart's trial. The trial stems from her personal sale of shares of drug maker ImClone Systems Inc. (IMCL).

Martha Stewart Living shares jumped 10.9 percent Friday to their highest level since June 2002 when the trial judge dismissed the most serious charge of securities fraud against Stewart, citing a lack of evidence.

However, the stock dropped nearly 3 percent in on Monday, down 40 cents to $14.13.

Stewart stepped down as chief executive of her company after her indictment, but she remains a board member and chief creative officer.