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The Two Most Important Company Reports This Week

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Investors are stuck in a no-man's land in which credit crisis 2.0 is capsizing a shaky global economy.

Every region of the world and asset class has its share of woes, from emerging markets to bonds, a condition that's unnerving American investors already wracked with worry over high unemployment.

For some enlightenment, watch the earnings reports this week from (AMZN - Get Report) and UPS (UPS - Get Report). No other two companies will offer as much information about the health of the consumer-oriented U.S. economy.

To be sure, other companies will give investors important industry snapshots. Ford (F - Get Report) will update investors on the state of the U.S. car market, which is stronger than it's been in years. Coach (COH - Get Report) will offer a view of the luxury sector, which has been as hot as the discounters. And Caterpillar (CAT - Get Report), with its global operations, will give much-needed clarity to the cloudy outlook for industrial companies.

Amazon, which publishes its quarterly report after the stock market closes Tuesday, has its hand in so many areas that it's become a weather vane for several industries. Once considered an Internet bookstore, Amazon now sells shoes, DVDs, video games, toys, exercise equipment -- the list goes on. Amazon has also become a powerhouse against Apple (AAPL) and Netflix (NFLX - Get Report) with its catalog of streaming digital music and movies.

Apart from its dominant status as the biggest Internet retailer, Amazon has shifted its attention to cloud services, one of the hottest trends in technology. And now the company is set to go head-to-head against Apple's iPad with its Kindle Fire tablet device.

Many iPad competitors have come and gone, failing to loosen Apple's stranglehold on the market for tablet PCs. Amazon, though, is in a unique position with its Kindle Fire tablet, as the device is priced well below the iPad 2 base model ($199 versus $499). In addition, Amazon has the ecosystem of music, movie and application downloads that other Apple rivals lack. What Amazon says about the presale success of the Kindle Fire -- as well as how its retail operations are running -- will be more important than even an Apple rollout.

"We'll get an idea of the consumer health in general," says Bryan Keane, co-portfolio manager of the Alpine Global Consumer Growth Fund (AWCGX). "It is an important earnings report because of the size of Amazon. Because they do sell so many different types of products, you can get an idea of how the different segments are doing."
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CAT $72.65 2.00%
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