Inflation may have stolen the headlines Friday, but earnings will dominate next week's action.

"The market needs a catalyst right now with all this bad news weighing on it," says Brian Williamson, equity trader at Boston Company Asset Management. "It's up to earnings to turn the tide."

Next week's earnings onslaught kicks off Monday with reports from the likes of Commerce Bancorp ( CBH), General Motors ( GM) and Citigroup ( C).

Traders will also be able to play with earnings from toymakers Hasbro ( HAS) and Mattel ( MAT) on Monday.

On Tuesday, companies reporting quarterly results will include Kraft ( KFT), Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Motorola ( MOT).

Intel ( INTC) also is set to report earnings Tuesday. Analysts expect the chipmaker to earn 33 cents a share, up from 30 cents last year, on $9.92 billion in revenue. Intel has said it expects to report revenue of $9.8 billion to $10 billion.

Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) will report on Tuesday as well, with analysts targeting earnings per share of 86 cents, up from the 78 cents the health care products company earned a year ago, on $12.5 billion in sales.

Among the companies reporting Wednesday are Abbott Laboratories ( ABT), General Dynamics ( GD) and eBay ( EBAY).

J.P. Morgan ( JPM) will also be reporting earnings on Wednesday. Analysts expect the company to earn 72 cents a share, up from 60 cents last year on $13.8 billion in revenue.

Thursday will be the heaviest earnings day of the week, with over 250 companies reporting. Some notable names on the docket include Broadcom ( BRCM), Eli Lilly ( LLY), Ford ( F) and McDonald's ( MCD).

Google ( GOOG) will also be among Thursday's heavily watched reports. Analysts expect the search giant to earn $1.36 a share, almost double last year's 70 cents a share, on quarterly revenue of $940 million.

Things slow down a bit on Friday on the earnings front, but releases from Caterpillar ( CAT) and Schlumberger ( SLB) should stir up a bit of trading action.

"The market has been in an irritable mood," says Sam Stovall, senior investment strategist at Standard & Poor's. "If earnings and guidance are good, and there are no reasons to sell, then things should work out OK."

Economics Gone, Not Forgotten

Earnings may be on the forefront of traders' minds in the coming week, but economic indicators surely won't be forgotten -- except maybe the core CPI number, which saved equities, but not bonds, on Friday. The overall consumer price index rose 1.2%, but the core consumer-level inflation, which excluded food and energy, was up just 0.1% last month, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had been looking for a 0.9% increase in the CPI and a 0.2% uptick in the core rate

"Treasuries continued to move lower on Friday in reaction to the realization that the headline CPI is telling an 'inflationary" story,' says Randy Diamond, sales trader at Miller Tabak. "The 10-year Treasury moved above the key 4.5% level, so you can no longer ex-out the volatile 'food and fuel' to establish the inflation picture."

Wachovia economist Jason Schenker says Treasury yields could head even higher if next Tuesday's producer price index comes in far above economists estimate of 1.1%. Nevertheless, he says a spike in the PPI will not seep into the more important CPI "for at least a couple of months."

Elsewhere, considering recent evidence of a weakening trend in the housing market, next Wednesday's housing starts and building permits could provide important validation. For the bond market, the weakness in housing could mean a step up the selling of Treasuries, which in turn would push yields higher and pressure stocks.

Finally, the Fed has a chance to either reinforce or counter conclusions drawn by the markets following two weeks of so-called Fedspeak. On Monday, Chairman Alan Greenspan will be speaking in Japan about energy, and Fed members Ferguson and Kohn, two potential Greenspan successors, will be speaking Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, on the economic outlook.

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