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
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
Investors also will find out Monday if chipmakers
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.
Tuesday's highlights include reports from
Johnson & Johnson
will take a break from its wrestling match with
to also report earnings on Tuesday. Analysts are looking for the health products giant to earn 73 cents a share, up from 67 cents last year, on sales of $13.2 billion.
Among the notable names on the Wednesday's earnings docket are
The action remains hot and heavy on Thursday from
ACE Cash Express
all the way through
. Among the heavy hitters in between are
will be reporting its fiscal second-quarter earnings on Thursday. Wall Street forecasts call for Mister Softee to post a profit of 33 cents a share, up a penny from its year-earlier earnings, on revenue of $12 billion.
The frenetic pace cools off a bit on Friday, but there will still be some big hitters stepping up to the plate, including
Procter & Gamble
Corporate earnings may dominate trading in the coming week, but a few key economic releases could steal a headline or two.
On Monday, leading indicators for December will be reported. Economists expect a rise of 0.2%, down from November's increase of 0.5%. The leading indicators report is a mix of previously announced economic indicators such as new orders, jobless claims, money supply, average workweek, building permits and stock prices.
The housing sector will be put under the microscope again on Wednesday, when December existing-home sales data are announced. Economists are predicting 6.9 million sales, down from 6.97 million transactions the prior month.
December sales of newly built homes, meanwhile, are set for release on Friday, along with the biggest economic number of the week, advanced fourth-quarter GDP. Economists are looking for the nation's economy to have grown by 2.9% last quarter, down from 4.1%, but analysts say the muddy earnings picture is not offering a clear vision of what to expect.
"It does not feel like the economy has slowed that much, especially since the drop-off would have been higher without the effects from Katrina," says Mendelsohn. "But earnings have been so uneven so far; who knows what we'll see?"
Milton Ezrahi, an economist at Lord Abbett, says investors should not be cowed by a lower-than-expected headline number, suggesting that "if they dig into the details they will find more underlying strength." Ezrati blames the expected slowdown on a surge in oil prices and the reduction in auto spending. Outside of buying -- and filling up -- their cars, says Ezrati, the consumer remains as healthy as ever.