As the first quarter of 2005 fades into investors' rearview mirrors, the financial media have been quick to recap its results with a jaundiced eye. 'Twas bad, to be sure, for all indices and sectors not related to energy, utilities or basic materials, and it seems that everyone knows now that the bad tidings will continue as the feds bear down on a new round of villainous CEOs. But will the past quarter's travails really continue in a straight line right through into the new quarter, or is a confounding reversal on the horizon? It's tempting to see the world of finance as if it were on rails, advancing from point A to point B without a squiggle along the route. But unfortunately, it does not work out that way. Bad quarters sometimes lead to good ones, just as one-time heroes like Maurice Greenberg, former head of American International Group ( AIG), can morph enigmatically into goats. There's little doubt at present that a combination of higher interest rates, higher energy prices, weaker domestic employment and softening global demand will ultimately pummel the market this year. How could it not? Yet before the drubbing begins in earnest, there could be some remarkable trading opportunities in the opposite direction, and soon. And there's always the possibility, remote as it may be, that the recent decline has sufficed to discount market participants' expectations of rough stuff ahead.