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The Two Most Important Company Earnings This Week

Stocks in this article: JPM CVX AA MPDAX NEIMX

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Global bank JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and oil company Chevron (CVX) kick off fourth-quarter earnings reporting season this week, giving the first important clues on corporate performance as global growth slows.

Alcoa (AA) posts results after the closing bell today, marking the unofficial, yet traditional, start to earnings season. The aluminum maker has cut capacity by 12% due to a drop in prices, leading investors to think Alcoa will report a loss.

Investors will have to hunt elsewhere for clues on how businesses fared during the fourth quarter if the short-lived 2012 rally is to continue. After only a week, the S&P 500 is up 1.6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed 1.2%. One of the brightest spots in the early year rally has been bank stocks, with the financial sector of the S&P 500 up more than 3%.

Only four other companies in the S&P 500 and one other Dow component are scheduled to release results during the week, according to FactSet Research. The peak weeks of the fourth-quarter earnings reporting season won't come until Jan. 17. As it turns out, one of the S&P 500 and Dow components out with earnings results in the coming week is a financial stock, and it could shed light on how banks performed over the past three months.

JPMorgan is the first of the major financial companies to report financial results each quarter, making it a key report for investors to watch for early trends. Analysts are forecasting a fourth-quarter profit of 93 cents on revenue of nearly $23.5 billion, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters. The bank will open the books on its fourth quarter on Friday.

The financial sector was the worst-performing sector of the S&P 500 last year -- down around 20% -- but financials have been leading the way in 2012. With one week in, financials are up 3.5%, the biggest sector gain aside from materials, which are up nearly 4%. If investors have any hope that the rebound continues, JPMorgan will have to deliver.

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