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The Coming Week: Net Positive

After an inauspicious start to the new year, investors are hoping for good news next week in the form of solid fourth-quarter earnings.

About 144 companies are scheduled to release results in the coming week, including Intel (INTC), Apple Computer (AAPL), Alcoa (AA) and Nortel (NT).

Meanwhile, a report on retail sales and the producer price index for December could attract attention after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting raised concern about inflation and a faster pace of interest rate hikes.

Stocks fell last week, with the Dow down 1.7% at 10,604 and the Nasdaq down almost 4% to 2089. The S&P 500 was off by 2% at 1186. The performance worried some analysts who believe that the first five days in January can set the tone for the market for the rest of the year.

Still, there have been 20 times in the past 53 years when the market declined in the first five days, and stocks ended the year in positive territory 50% of the time, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac.

"I tend not to put too much stock into those things," said Dave Briggs, head trader at Federated Investors. "So many people are tuned into these seasonal patterns that they tend to be discounted further ahead. We had the January effect in December."

James Altucher, managing partner of Formula Capital and a contributor to TheStreet.com's sister site RealMoney, agrees .

"I would not base a yearlong allocation on this so-called 'early warning system,'" he wrote.

Altucher said trading in the entire month of January may hold more predictive value, but only if the market is up. Since 1956, the market has been up in January on 30 occasions, and 86% of the time, stocks continued rising over the next 11 months. In the 18 occasions when January was negative, he said, the remainder of the year was positive nine times and negative nine times.

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