NEW YORK (
-- The U.S. Department of Commerce releases its read on fourth-quarter gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. ET Friday.
Last quarter, the number was revised up to 2.6% from 2.5%. The current consensus is roughly 3.5%, but the range among economists is anywhere between a bearish 2.9% and a bullish 5.4%.
The United Kingdom recently delivered a disappointing GDP number, down 0.5%, stirring the debate about whether it's wise to make deep spending cuts with a fragile recovering economy. Some think the United States could follow Britain's pattern. The
just said it has no plans to back away from QE2. Do you really think Bernanke has to wait like the rest of us for GDP?
Inflation is the worry of course, and this earnings season has already been noteworthy for the number of companies openly discussing rising commodity prices. Most are indicating that they plan to pass on those increases to their customers.
One of the biggest indicators for inflation is energy costs and
is set to report its results on Friday.
Crude oil prices are close to fourth-quarter 2007 averages of $91 a barrel. Unfortunately, the major oil companies have also struggled with higher costs and weaker refining margins. Also, the price of gas at the pumps was still relatively low during the fourth quarter and didn't start to climb until the beginning of 2011.
recently lowered its estimate for Chevron's quarter to earnings of $2.43 a share, but the firm is still higher than the average estimate of $2.32 and it maintains an outperform rating. Most traders like the energy trade for now, and Chevron -- up almost 30% in the past 52 weeks -- continues to trade at record highs. Expect to see big cash levels for the company too.
reports its quarterly results before Friday's opening bell. The current average estimate of analysts polled by
is for earnings of 48 cents a share.
Traders and analysts will be listening for comments on rising steel and copper prices during Ford's call. Plus, the market wants to know if costs are rising on the engineering side as the company tries to deliver alternative fuel and electric cars. Customers aren't getting any more bargains because incentives have dropped, but that should help Ford out on the profit side.
A good number from Ford will have a positive effect on the market but it will have to be stellar to boost Ford stock further as the shares are already up 62% over the past year.
is another big name in Friday's lineup. The company already gave guidance, so the market may be hoping for a little upside surprise. The old "under-promise and over-deliver" trick. Listen for weakness in aerospace, but better results in autos.
The stock, like Ford, is trading at year highs, but it looks like most analysts feel the shares have moved as much as they can. The company still has pension costs weighing it down.
will also be closely watched for how many trucks it's got out on the roads.
Many traders prefer to see real truck numbers as opposed to surveys and indexes to get a feel for the recovery. Lots of trucks means more stuff going to stores, which means stores are ordering stuff cause they believe people will buy it. If the truck volume isn't happening, it won't be a positive indicator for the economy.
--Written by Debra Borchardt in New York.
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