By Kevin Grewal, Contributing Analyst at www.smartstops.net

Today kicks off the second-quarter earnings season, and many investors are anxious to see how well their favorite stocks performed.

Optimistic investors hope that the worst of the economic downfall is over and that the bottom lines will reflect this notion. The International Monetary Fund has provided Wall Street some positive news on the health of the global economy in 2010 with an estimated global economic growth rate of 2.5%. Many hope the news will be reflected in corporate profits.

Additionally, the Institute for Supply Management, said U.S. manufacturing activity in the second quarter has slowly been improving, with its index at 44.8 in June. That was higher than experts had anticipated.

Lastly, some hope other economic indicators, such as the continuing rise in pending home sales and the ease of inflationary worries, can be catalysts.

On the negative side, investors are still wary of what is to come from corporate America. Jobless rates continue to increase with unemployment at a 26-year high; consumer confidence is trying to claw its way up from the bottom of the barrel; and discretionary spending continues to decline while savings rates rise.

On top of this, the U.S. dollar remains weak, influencing foreign currency exchange costs, and commodities prices are declining, indicating that global demand is not as high as once thought.

In a nutshell, only time will tell us just how well our favorite corporations have performed. Here are a few stocks that are expected to release earnings this week.

Alcoa ( AA), expected to release today after the bell. Although weakened demand has taken its toll, the aluminum giant has rebounded nicely since seeing a March low of $5.22 to close at $9.41 on July 7; a gain of nearly 80%.

Pepsi Bottling Group ( PBG) is expected to perform fairly well and continue its upward trend much due to the billion dollar deal that it signed with Pepsi Co. ( PEP) to invest in Russia over the next three years. The stock closed Tuesday at $33.65, up 98% from its March close of $7.02.

Chevron ( CVX), is expected to benefit from the most recent rally in crude oil. The stock has moved up 11% from a March low of $56.46 to close at $62.70 on Tuesday.

Insurance giant Progressive ( PGR), closed at $14.41 on Tuesday, up 46% since a March low of $9.89. Some say that even in tough economic times, insurance companies thrive.

Regardless of what the earnings outcome is for these previously mentioned companies, keep in mind that when investing in them there are always risks.

The best way to alleviate these risks is to have an exit strategy. According to the latest data from www.SmartStops.net here are the price levels where the uptrend of these stocks would be over: AA at $8.76; PBG at $32.17; CVX at $61.66; PGR at $13.97. You can track the daily changes and get updated data at at www.SmartStops.net.

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