A struggling stock market faces more volatility in the coming week as the fourth-quarter earnings season reaches a crescendo and investors look beyond next Friday to elections in Iraq and another Federal Reserve meeting. So far, the first leg of 2005 has been a flameout for stocks, after the two-month rally that closed out 2004. For the first time since 1977, the equity markets have lost ground for the first three weeks of January, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 down 3.6% for the year and the Nasdaq Composite down 6.5%. "I would think that we're going to get at least one good week here in January," said Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "People are focused on earnings, and what we're seeing from earnings is generally good, but the commentary going forward for a lot of companies is not terrific. I think that's keeping investors' enthusiasm under wraps." While questions abound for 2005, results for the final quarter of 2004 are off to a good start this reporting season, albeit with the majority still to be tallied. On Friday, Thomson First Call reported that 115 companies from the S&P 500 were on the books, with 65% beating Wall Street's estimates, 18% matching them and 17% falling short. Those results provide some upside to a typical reporting season, when roughly 59% beat estimates, 21% match and 17% miss. Headed into the peak week of earnings season, with 150 companies set to report, results are headed for year-over-year growth of 16.5%, beating estimates at the beginning of the season that predicted 15.5% growth. "We're running a little more positive than the average, but less than a quarter of the index has reported so far, so we still have quite a ways to go on that," said John Butters, a research analyst with Thomson First Call.