With a flood of quarterly earnings reports due in the coming week, investors will have their hands full.

Thursday is set to be the week's busiest day for news, with

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

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,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

,

Nortel

(NT)

,

International Paper

(IP) - Get Report

and

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

reporting results.

"Next week will be more of the same, with another third of the

S&P 500

reporting, which will keep us on our toes. That will get more focus than the economic data," said Art Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. "Next week will be back-end loaded, as we build up until that Thursday crescendo. Hopefully, the marquee companies will give us as much positive guidance as ... cautious guidance."

3M

(MMM) - Get Report

,

Corning

(GLW) - Get Report

,

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

and

Texas Instruments

(TXN) - Get Report

will kick off the week.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

and

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

follow on Tuesday. Wednesday will be a big day for tech, with

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

,

Lucent

(LU)

and

Computer Associates

(CA) - Get Report

.

The week closes with

Weyerhaeuser

(WY) - Get Report

results on Friday.

Thus far, results have been solidly beating analyst estimates, with Thomson First Call reporting that 66% of second-quarter earnings have been upside surprises, while only 22% have missed to the downside. That's better than results at the same point during the year-ago quarter, when 61% outperformed and 24% underperformed.

But in a troubling sign for the rally, earnings guidance going forward has been spotty, with blue-chip

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

talking down business, especially on the information-technology spending front. Market watchers say forward guidance will drive market trading until earnings season is over.

"The whole premise of the four-and-a-half-month bull market move was the second-half recovery, and when an IBM or a

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

says demand ain't that great, then what are we dealing with here?" said Larry Wachtel, senior vice president at Prudential Securities. "In 2001 and 2002 we were supposed to see second-half recoveries. Didn't happen."

Indeed, last week, the market rally waned a bit as investors locked in profits and looked to buy on market dips after guidance for the rest of 2003 proved mixed. All in all, markets were flat or relatively weak, with the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

knocking out a slight gain of 68.56 points, or 0.8%, closing the week at 9188.15. The

Nasdaq Composite

, which has outperformed the broader market rally, stumbled 25.42 points, or 1.5%, to 1708.51, while the S&P 500 fell 4.82 points, or 0.5, to close the week at 993.32.

The past week's action represents the uncertain trading seen over the last three weeks, which Hogan of Jefferies & Co. said is relatively common during the earnings season. He expects more of the same in the coming week.

"We're in a very typical pattern for the earnings season. You sort of ramp up into it with expectations, and then you work sideways through it. If you look at an annual chart over the last three years, you'll see a flattening out period every earnings reporting season," said Hogan. "Right now we're going through that, and sideways is pretty good, considering."

On the economic front, leading economic indicators for the month of June will be released on Monday. Analysts expect growth of 0.1% after May's gain of 1%. On Thursday, initial jobless claims for the week of July 19 will be released. The week will end with June durable goods orders. Analysts expect a gain of 1% after a 0.4% fall in May. June home-sales data are due late in the week as well.

"Not too many economic releases this week," said Prudential's Wachtel. "And in terms of dramatic news events, while there are going to be some important earnings statements, I don't know they're the type of earnings statements that break ground or turn heads. Most of the sexy earnings appeared this past week."