The coming week may be holiday-shortened, but it is jam-packed with earnings and economic data. "What's the most important bit of information next week? All of it!" says Robert Pavlik, chief investment officer at Oaktree Asset Management. The fourth-quarter earnings reporting season will begin to heat up, with some of the biggest companies in the S&P 500 releasing their results and perhaps providing a peek at 2007 expectations. Elsewhere, speeches by several top Federal Reserve members may provide clues into their interest rate-thinking and ease recent market uncertainty. The government's consumer price and producer price index reports, meanwhile, will directly speak to inflation. The manufacturing slowdown will be addressed by regional manufacturing reports, as well as industrial production and capacity utilization releases. And housing-start and building-permit figures will shed light on the status of the troubled housing market. "There are no bears in the forest right now, so next week's data will either let the bulls push through the top and squeeze the shorts out of their minds and money, or it will give the bears some confidence to start a correction," says Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial.
The stock and bond markets will be closed on Monday to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. When traders return on Tuesday, the earnings parade starts with reports from Commerce Bancorp ( CBH), Forest Labs ( FRX) and Wells Fargo ( WFC).