BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- The 30 companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average are expected by analysts to post earnings growth of 6.5% in the fourth quarter versus the third, buoyed by improved consumer confidence, manufacturing and business spending.

Companies that beat analysts' projections may get a quick boost in their share prices. In the third quarter, 19 Dow companies exceeded estimates and 10 fell short, some spectacularly so, while one was on target. Alcoa ( AA), the largest U.S. aluminum producer, kicked off earnings season yesterday, reporting profit that topped analysts' estimates.

For all of 2010, the Dow is forecast to show earnings growth of 24%, according to Thomson Reuters, while the broader S&P 500 Index may record growth of 27%, including a 32% jump in the fourth quarter.

Shares that make up the Dow gained 11% last year, while the S&P 500 climbed 15%. Among the losers, Cisco Systems ( CSCO) dropped 15% last year, although analysts are predicting that Cisco will make a comeback.

Sixteen of the 30 companies in the Dow are expected to deliver improved profits compared with the third quarter, while 11 are forecast to be lower, said Globe Newswire, which collects analysts' average estimates. No company is expected to report a fourth-quarter loss.

Indicative of the strength of fourth-quarter earnings, Thomson Reuters said it expects that nine of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 saw improved earnings in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier.

Companies expected to record the biggest earnings gains are those in the financial and health-care industries, which were particularly hard hit over the past few years.

Leading the list of Dow members with better earnings are two pharmaceutical firms: Merck ( MRK) and Pfizer ( PFE), both of which have struggled as the government has attempted different versions of health-care reform as patent expirations of key moneymakers took hold.

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