The earnings parade starts to thin out this week as traders await a

Fed

decision and a jobs report.

"Is there anything better than a week of top-tier economic data that includes the two most market-moving of all indicators?" asks Rich Yamarone, chief economist at Argus Research, referring to Tuesday's meeting of the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee and Friday's monthly jobs report. "It's Christmas, the Super Bowl, a birthday, payday and vacation -- all in one trading week."

That's not all. Construction spending for March and the ISM Index for April arrive on Monday, while the struggling auto sector will be tested on Tuesday with auto and truck sales numbers.

The real economic fireworks begin on Tuesday afternoon, when the Fed makes its decision on the future of interest rates. Most analysts expect the Fed to lift overnight lending rates by a quarter-point to 3%, the eighth straight hike since last summer.

More important than the Fed's actions, say analysts like Paul Mendelsohn of Windham Financial, will be the words in the statement that accompanies any interest rate moves.

"This is where the rubber finally meets the road," says Mendelsohn. "They've got enough data to get a clear picture of where they want to go."

Lately, the data have pointed to slower growth and rising inflation. First-quarter GDP came in at 3.1%, well short of analysts' expectations. The bond market has responded to the growth problem, but not to inflation. Bond buyers have gobbled up the benchmark 10-year bond in the last week, pushing the yield down below 4.2%.

The slower growth also seems to have knocked out the chances of a 50-basis-point rate hike anytime soon. That sort of aggressive measure didn't seem far fetched only a few months ago, when the greatest fear was an overheating economy.

"With the economy clearly entrenched in another oil-induced soft patch, the Fed will want to avoid upsetting the skittish financial markets and a fragile economy by moving in disruptive, unjustifiably aggressive 50-basis-point increments," says Yamarone.

The market will see initial jobless claims on Thursday, as well as nonfarm productivity figures for the first quarter. Nonfarm productivity and costs gain greater importance when the market is eagerly watching for signs of inflation.

Finally, April nonfarm payroll data, the mother of all monthly economic reports, arrive on Friday. Economists estimate that 170,000 jobs were added last month, up from 110,000 in March. Of course, those same experts fell far short of their best guess last month.

"The jobs report always moves the market," says Mendelsohn. "That shows the Fed and everybody else where the slack in the economy is."

Monday kicks off the last big week for earnings, with companies including

Chesapeake Energy

(CHK) - Get Report

,

Nortel

( NT),

SBA Communications

(SBAC) - Get Report

and

Tyson Foods

(TSN) - Get Report

posting numbers.

Investors in

DirecTV

(DTV)

will be able to tune into the company's earnings on Monday. Analyst estimates for the digital television provider are for a penny-a-share loss on revenue of $3.05 billion.

Tuesday sees earnings from

Charter Communications

(CHTR) - Get Report

,

Electronic Arts

( ERTS) and

Marsh & McLennan

(MMC) - Get Report

.

Also on tap for Tuesday are

Masco

(MAS) - Get Report

,

Maxim Integrated Products

(MXIM) - Get Report

,

MetLife

(MET) - Get Report

and

Teva Pharmaceutical

(TEVA) - Get Report

.

Software provider

Veritas

(VRTS) - Get Report

will be reporting first-quarter numbers on Tuesday. Analysts expect Veritas to earn 24 cents a share for the quarter, up a penny from last year, on $535 million in sales.

The earnings party continues on Wednesday with

24/7 Real Media

( TFSM),

Credit Suisse Group

( CSR),

Devon Energy

(DVN) - Get Report

,

Friedman Billings Ramsey

(FBR)

and

InterActiveCorp

(IACI)

.

Also scheduled for Wednesday are

NICE Systems

(NICE) - Get Report

,

PG&E

(PCG) - Get Report

,

QLogic

(QLGC)

and

Time Warner

(TWX)

.

Thursday may be the biggest day of the week, with more than 230 companies releasing quarterly reports. Look for

Blockbuster

( BBI),

Calpine

(CPN)

,

Clorox

(CLX) - Get Report

,

FindWhat.com

( FWHT) and

McKesson

(MCK) - Get Report

.

The market will also hear from energy companies

Reliant Energy

(RRI)

and

Williams Companies

(WMB) - Get Report

.

Consulting company

Watson Wyatt

( WW) will release quarterly results on Thursday. Wall Street expects the company to post earnings of 40 cents for the quarter, down 2 cents from last year, on $183 million in revenue.

Traders will get a slight break from earnings on Friday, as they switch over to focusing on the jobs report. But there will still be a few big names worth watching, including

Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream

( DRYR),

Revlon

(REV) - Get Report

and

Unliever

(UL) - Get Report

.