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Updated from 10/17/09

(Updated with news about CIT.)



) -- The coming week is a critical one, as companies from all sectors of the market will report third-quarter earnings in what may be the

most important earnings season ever


During a week when the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

reclaimed -- and

relinquished -- the psychologically important 10,000 level, fluctuations in the market were mostly fueled by earnings reports from big U.S. banks, including

JPMorgan Chase

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Bank of America

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, and a handful of technology companies, such as


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Over the next five sessions, though, a wave of earnings reports from every corner of the market will hit the wires. Thirteen of the Dow's 30 components will release quarterly results in the coming week, compared with only seven members of the blue-chip average that have reported thus far.

"We're going to get a better cross-section of the overall economy," says Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "What's going to be important is exactly what we've been looking at over the past week. We want to see revenue pick up, we want to see earnings beats and, most importantly, we want to hear what they say about their business going forward."

Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist with Banyan Partners, agrees that the coming week offers "a broader sense of the overall health of the economy and the overall business conditions," but remains concerned about what year-over-year revenue comparisons will show.

"We're going to see a continuation of the trend where there are earnings beats and there is a slight improvement in the guidance going forward," Pavlik says. "Revenue is going to be an issue, which has forced companies to continue to use cost-cutting programs. It really depends on whether analysts' forecasts for revenue have been taken down enough."

Nolte adds that this earnings season is going to be very important from the perspective of expectations, and the real story "is about true revenue growth, not expectations."

"If I expect you to fail math and you get a 'D,' we're excited. But a 'D' still stinks," he says. "That's what's happening in these reports when you look at revenue. Companies are still showing earnings thanks to cost cutting, but if they aren't growing revenue then the upward trend cannot continue."

While he concedes that the argument that this earnings season is the most important ever is "valid to some degree," Pavlik says the fourth quarter will actually be the most important because of the expectations being placed upon it. He argues that year-over-year revenue comparisons, which have been tough in the third quarter already, should be more favorable by the following quarter.

"If you can get through this quarter with even a slight improvement, then there will be an expectation that the fourth quarter, with the easy year-over-year comparisons, will show a marked increase," Pavlik says. "Without that, though, investors will start to question what will happen in 2010 with any sort of recovery."

But before investors can look ahead to next quarter, they will have to withstand next week's earnings torrent. The busy reporting week kicks off Monday with reports from


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, although


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will receive the most attention when it reports after the closing bell.

Texas Instruments

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Boston Scientific

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Zions Bancorp

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also will be out with quarterly results late Monday.

Several components of the Dow will be out with earnings before the start of trading Tuesday, including


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United Technologies

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In addition,

Bank of New York Mellon

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UnitedHealth Group

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Lockheed Martin

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Regions Financial

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are among a handful of companies reporting early Tuesday.

After the close of trading Tuesday,




Seagate Technology

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Gilead Sciences

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are among the companies scheduled to post earnings.


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will be the lone Dow member to report before the start of trading Wednesday, although investors will be watching earnings from

Wells Fargo

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Morgan Stanley

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more closely.


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Eli Lilly

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Northrop Grumman

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US Bancorp

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will also report earnings early Wednesday.


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will headline the after-hours reports, with


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Ameriprise Financial

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also scheduled to report late Wednesday.

Thursday's session will be all about earnings from Dow components, with


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(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report



(MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. Report


Travelers Companies

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due before the start of trading and

American Express

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later in the day.

Also on Thursday,

Delta Air Lines

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Dow Chemical

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(UPS) - Get United Parcel Service, Inc. Class B Report




will report before the start of trading, with

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due late, among many others.

Friday is the quietest day in terms of earnings releases, although traders will have to sift through quarterly results from


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(HON) - Get Honeywell International Inc. Report



(EXC) - Get Exelon Corporation Report



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, among a few others, before trading begins.

Early in the week, investors also are likely to look for more developments in the

CIT Group

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story. News emerged over the weekend that the troubled lender

was amending its debt restructuring plan


Lost in the flurry of earnings reports is the week's small slate of economic data, which will include two important reports on the housing market. Tuesday will bring the September read on housing starts and building permits, which should increase from August's levels. Perhaps more importantly, September existing-homes sales will be posted Friday morning and should rise from the month prior.

Nolte argues that the existing-home sales data will be "one of the bigger discussions" outside of earnings releases due to the timing of the report and because it offers an important glimpse as to how the consumer will fare over the months ahead.

"We're beyond the window now where someone could start the mortgage process in order to qualify for the government's $8,000 credit," Nolte says. "This is going to be the last piece of data that will incorporate that credit. We need to see what happens going forward after this report. Whether this number is good or bad, the discussion will be about whether to extend that credit."

-- Written by Robert Holmes in New York