The outlook for investors could brighten considerably in the coming week if the market continues to tune out the din of war in the Middle East and concentrates on the sounds of silence at home.

About two weeks before the end of the first quarter, both the quantity and quality of corporate earnings forecasts have been unusually favorable, with most of the highest-profile preannouncements consisting of guidance to the upside. While the absence of bad news never hits as hard as a terrorist's bomb, its obverse -- a plethora of warnings -- could have certainly exacerbated the pain in the week just ended, in which the Dow finished down 0.5% and the Nasdaq lost 2.2%.

To date, there have been 1.7 earnings warnings to every positive preannouncement, according to First Call -- well off the historical average of 2.5. What's more, profit estimates have been rising over the past couple of months, and analysts are now calling for 15.9% growth in the first quarter, up from 13.4% at the start of the year.

Several sectors are looking at another blowout quarter for earnings. Basic materials are expected to increase profits 77%, while tech firms are projected to post earnings growth of 52%. Profits in the transports group are seen rising 48%. Telecom and utilities will post declines.

This season has produced a conspicuous absence of warnings dire enough to flatten the broader market or even significant parts of major sectors. Last week's biggest preannouncement came from 3M ( MMM), which said strength in its graphics and industrial segments would combine with a weaker dollar to propel earnings a few pennies above per-share estimates.

The announcement resembled one a week earlier from Procter & Gamble ( PG) and was consistent with bullish outlooks proffered by executives at Cisco Systems ( CSCO), Ingersoll-Rand ( IR), EMC ( EMC) and Illinois Tool ( ITW).

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