Updated from 7/24/2010Update includes news that BP's board is likely to appoint managing director Bob Dudley to succeed embattled CEO Tony Hayward. NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Earnings season marches on next week. Market observers are keeping their fingers crossed that firms will continue signaling more of the same: good results and encouraging comments that dispel "double-dip" talk. "I think the earnings season, so far, has established the fact that earnings are coming in better and revenue growth is appearing for a lot of companies," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners. "Bottom line is that the earnings season has already been factored in as a positive." "I think
But in an effort to help pay for those costs, BP already announced the
sale of several global assets to Apache ( APA) for $7 billion. With a divestment target already set at $10 billion, observers will also want hints on any future sales. BP's efforts to permanently plug the well hit a snag Friday when the company said it was halting drilling efforts on a relief well because of a coming tropical storm. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that BP's board had negotiated the departure of embattled CEO Tony Hayward. Citing anonymous sources, the Journal said the board would meet Monday to decide on the departure plan, and that it was likely to appoint managing director Bob Dudley, who is also a BP board member, to succeed Hayward. Under the departure plan, Dudley would take the CEO's reins on Oct. 1, allowing for a two-month transition period, the Journal reported. Dow components Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Chevron ( CVX), along with ConocoPhillips ( COP) and Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A), will also report next week. Observers will be looking for indications on how the regulatory environment following the spill may affect future business, among other things. These same big oil players also announced the creation of a deepwater oil spill rapid-response firm and have pledged some $1 billion for the endeavor. Hess ( HES) and Occidental Petroleum ( OXY) are also slated to report next week, along with refiners Valero ( VLO) and Sunoco ( SUN). Blue-chip aircraft manufacturer Boeing ( BA) is expected to report earnings of $1.01 a share Wednesday morning, with investors looking for improving aircraft orders. Fellow defense contractors Lockheed Martin ( LMT) and General Dynamics ( GD) will also offer up their quarterly results next week. Dow component Merck ( MRK), which reports before Friday's opening bell, is following announcements from peers like Eli Lilly ( LLY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY). The drugmaker, which is forecast to earn 83 cents a share in the quarter, will probably report a continued infusion from its Schering-Plough merger, and from its stable of market-leading drugs like Zetia and Singulair. Other health care names like Universal Health ( UHS), Aetna ( AET), WellPoint ( WLP), Community Health ( CYH) and Health Management ( HMA) will also be picked apart, as investors look for any effects from the Obama administration's health care overhaul. Consumer operations Colgate-Palmolive ( CL) and Kellogg ( K) are scheduled to report Thursday, while Visa ( V) will show off its third-quarter numbers following Wednesday's closing bell. Among economic reports, Friday will bring the government's first read on the pace of economic growth in the second quarter. GDP is expected to have grown at a 2.5% annual pace, according to consensus figures provided by Briefing.com. This would be a slower pace than the first quarter's 2.7% growth. It would also mark a more drastic slowdown compared to the red-hot 5.6% annual growth rate posted in the fourth quarter of last year. But while deserving attention, more than a few market watchers said GDP may take a backseat to more recent manufacturing reads because most concerns about economic growth are focused on the latter half of the year rather than the second quarter.
Friday will bring the Chicago Purchasing Manager Index, which tracks the pace of factory activity in the Midwest. The index is expected to come in at 56.5 in July, a slowdown from June's 59.1 reading. A reading of more than 50 indicates expansion, while a reading of less than 50 indicates contraction. "I think more attention will be paid, more so than normal, to the Chicago PMI," said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson, who said the report is more respected and covers a larger geographic region than other regional manufacturing data sets. "With questions coming out about the economy and Bernanke's comments about feeling uncertain about our uncertain economy, that's going to provide more attention to that data this week." On Wednesday morning, the Commerce Department is expected to say durable goods orders rose 1% in June after declining 0.6% in May. After stripping out transportation, however, orders are believed to have risen 0.5% during the month. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its so-called "Beige Book" Wednesday afternoon, which is an anecdotal assessment of economic conditions around the nation. Observers say to look for it to back up many of the same themes raised by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last week while speaking in front of Congress. In his testimony on the
semiannual monetary policy report, Bernanke cited heightened uncertainty surrounding growth and job creation, although he continued to reiterate the Federal Open Market Committee's outlook for moderate economic growth. The week's economic data calendar will also be filled with readings on the consumer -- both the Conference Board's consumer confidence reading and the University of Michigan's final appraisal of consumer sentiment for July -- housing, and new weekly unemployment claims. -- Written by Sung Moss in New York