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Microsoft: Tomorrow's Headliners

Microsoft and report earnings late Thursday, but results will be in focus Friday.



) -- Friday marks the end of a very busy week for earnings releases, although traders will likely still be sifting through several key reports due out late Thursday from companies like


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Microsoft should post a first-quarter profit of 42 cents a share on revenue of $14.39 billion, according to a poll of analysts by Thomson Reuters. Amazon is expected to see quarterly earnings of 61 cents a share on sales of $6.87 billion.

In addition,

American Express

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are among a handful of other companies set to open their books on the recent quarter late Thursday.

Friday is yet another busy day on the earnings front, although not as hectic as previous days this week. On tap are reports from




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Johnson Controls

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Away from earnings, the March reads on durable goods orders and new home sales will be closely watched by market participants. After a 0.9% rise in February, economists are forecasting only a 0.1% uptick in durable goods orders last month, or 0.7% when autos are stripped out.

New home sales, meanwhile, should increase to 330,000 in March from 308,000 in February, if economists are correct. On Thursday, a report on existing home sales in the U.S. showed a 6.8% jump ahead of the April deadline for the first-time homebuyer tax credit.

In related economic news, the G-7 and G-20 will meet over the next few days, with a bank levy proposal by the International Monetary Fund set to be the main point of discussion.

The IMF has proposed two new taxes on banks as a "fair and substantial" contribution by the financial sector, according to a report issued ahead of the G-20 meeting.

The first would be a Financial Stability Contribution, or FSC, which would initially be a flat rate levied against banks but refined over time to reflect institutions' riskiness and contributions to systemic risk, the IMF said. The FSC would target a bank's balance sheet, specifically on the liabilities of each bank.

The second proposed tax would be a Financial Activities Tax, or FAT, levied on the sum of the profits of financial institutions that were above normal levels, the IMF said.

-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston


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