Just because the Federal Reserve meeting is out of the way doesn't mean investors will stop obsessing about it in the week ahead. But with little economic news due out over the next few trading days, it's going to be hard to draw new conclusions about the direction of interest rates.

The Fed raised its short-term target rate by 25 basis points on Wednesday but maintained its pledge to raise rates this year "at a pace that is likely to be measured." A disappointing employment report on Friday, and other data showing a slowdown in the economy, suggest it won't be hard to keep that promise.

But the holiday-shortened week won't provide investors with any more significant clues on that front, since only four second-tier economic reports are due out. What it could provide, however, are some clues about the upcoming earnings season.

Earnings preannouncements, which have so far been very positive, are expected to speed up now that the second quarter is over. Meanwhile, three major companies will report earnings: Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Alcoa ( AA) on Wednesday and General Electric ( GE) on Friday.

"Next week is a prelude, or a set-up for the rash of earnings to come in the three weeks after that," said Larry Wachtel, senior vice president at Wachovia Securities.

Yahoo! is slated to report an 8-cent profit on Wednesday while Alcoa is expected to earn 47 cents a share. General Electric, which is sometimes seen as a proxy for the broader market and economy, is projected to earn 37 cents a share. In all, Thomson First Call is expecting companies in the S&P 500 to post year-over-year earnings growth of 26% in the second quarter.

"We expect another strong quarter of earnings momentum to push stocks moderately higher in coming weeks," said analysts from J.P. Morgan in a report.

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