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Coming Week: Critical Juncture

After a rocky start to the earnings season culminated in a massive stock selloff Friday, traders in the coming week will look to see if a deluge of profit reports can help the market regain its footing.

"Earnings were choppy last week, and the market reflected that," says Paul Mendelsohn, strategist at Windham Financial. "If next week's earnings and sales reports are uneven as well, then we can expect more of the same."

Some high-profile misses -- especially in the tech and banking sectors -- are keeping traders on edge heading into next week's flood of corporate releases. The market took a thrashing Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shedding all of its gains for 2006, following disappointing reports from giants Citigroup (C) and GE (GE).

About 20% of the S&P 500 has reported so far, according to Thomson Financial, with 58% of those reports coming in above estimates, 18% matching and 24% missing. Wall Street's fourth-quarter year-over-year profit growth expectations have risen since last week as well, to 13.7% from 13.2%, compared with 24% in 2004.

This week's earnings cascade kicks off Monday with reports from Bank of America (BAC), E*Trade (ET), Ford (F) and Eaton (ETN).

Investors also will find out Monday if chipmakers Texas Instruments (TXN) and Vitesse Semiconductor (VTSS) can salvage what has been a rough spell for the semis on Monday.

Thomson First Call's average fourth-quarter earnings estimate for Texas Instruments is 42 cents a share, up from the 28 cents the company reported a year earlier. Wall Street is targeting revenue of $3.64 billion. For Vitesse, analysts expect a loss of 2 cents a share, narrower than the 4-cent-a-share loss the company posted last year, and $53 million in sales.

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