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Earnings season gets well under way next week with traders expecting fat corporate profits amid slowing economic growth.

"Last Friday's unemployment report stepped up concerns about the slowing economy, and that's going to heighten the focus on the sustainability of corporate profits," says Larry Perruzi, equity trader at Boston Company Asset Management.

The Labor Department said last week that the economy added 51,000 jobs in September, well below economists' expectation for a gain of roughly 120,000 jobs. The data, however, were somewhat mixed. Payroll numbers for August were revised higher to 188,000 jobs added, from the previously reported 128,000. The unemployment rate dipped to 4.6% from 4.7%.

The stock market will be open for business on Monday; however, most federal government offices, including the

Federal Reserve

and the U.S. government bond market, will be closed in observance of Columbus Day.

All of the markets will be open on Tuesday when




(AA) - Get Alcoa Corp. Report

kicks off earnings season with its quarterly results.

According to Thomson Financial, economists are expecting 14% year-over-year earnings growth for the

S&P 500

in the third quarter. That's down from 15.3% on July 1 and 16.3% growth in the second quarter.

In terms of sectors, John Butters, research analyst at Thomson Financial, says earnings at consumer discretionary companies were forecast to grow 20% in the third quarter, but that number has recently narrowed to 8%.

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"The most significant downward revisions since July came from consumer discretionary stocks, with


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and the homebuilders really leading the way," says Butters.

Third-Quarter Kickoff

After a light preannouncement period, third-quarter earnings season begins in earnest on Tuesday with results from Alcoa. According to Thomson First Call, the consensus estimate is for the aluminum giant to earn 79 cents a share, up from 33 cents last year, on revenue of $7.68 billion.

Other heavy-hitters reporting earnings Tuesday include the likes of







Wednesday's highlights include reports from





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Lam Research

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Wednesday will also be a big day for restaurant stocks, with

Yum! Brands

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Ruby Tuesday


scheduled to announce results.

Among some of the notable names on tap for Thursday are


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(WGO) - Get Winnebago Industries, Inc. Report



(PEP) - Get PepsiCo, Inc. Report


Also reporting on Thursday will be

Costco Wholesale

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. Analysts expect the bulk retailer to earn 73 cents a share, up from 66 cents last year, on revenue of $19.1 billion.

A Whale of a Sales Report

The start of earnings season won't be the only thing keeping traders on their toes next week. There are also some heavy-duty economic data on the docket.

Wholesale inventories for August arrive on Tuesday. According to Thomson First Call, economists are expecting an increase of 0.6%, down from growth of 0.8% in August.

On Wednesday, the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's September meeting will be released.

Speaking of the Fed, its "beige book" is scheduled for release on Thursday afternoon. Published eight times a year, the beige book contains anecdotal information on current economic conditions in each of the Fed's 12 districts.

"You had mixed Fed reports from the regions recently, so hopefully the beige book will provide some clarity on what is going on out there," says Phillip Neuhart, economist at Wachovia.

Also on tap for Thursday is the August trade balance, which is predicted to be a deficit of $66.5 billion, a narrower figure than July's deficit of $68 billion.

Friday's slew of data releases includes import and export prices for September and business inventories for August. The Michigan sentiment index for October is on the docket as well with the consensus estimate looking for a reading of 86, as compared with 85.4 in September.

September retail sales are also scheduled to hit the market on Friday. The market is looking for the month's sales to rise 0.2%, the same as in August.

"Retail sales feed directly into many companies' earnings reports because consumer spending makes up roughly two-thirds of GDP," says Wachovia's Neuhart. "So the markets will especially be watching this number -- and Michigan sentiment -- to see if lower gas prices have bolstered the all-important consumer."