NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Earnings season starts in earnest next week with several technology and bank bellwethers set to report quarterly results. Companies are expected to deliver another round of strong quarterly performances, though with the Dow and the S&P 500 rising for seven straight weeks, investors may be tough to impress. Stocks rose last week, led by stronger-than-expected earnings from Intel ( INTC) and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM). Concerns about Europe's debt crisis eased after Japan commited to buying eurozone bonds to help support the region and Portugal managed a successful bond auction. Gains were capped by an unfavorable jobless claims report, lower-than-expected retail sales and a surprise drop in consumer sentiment. > > Bull or Bear? Vote in Our Poll In Asia, monetary tightening by China and Korea and rising inflation in India hurt stock markets, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng and India's Sensex finished the week lower. Commodity markets were mixed as crude prices rose amid tightening inventories and gold prices corrected sharply as developing countries took steps to curb inflation.
In the holiday-shortened trading week ahead, macro concerns and economic reports might take a backseat, as investors focus their attention on corporate earnings and management guidance for the current quarter and 2011. Phil Orlando, chief market strategist at Federated Investors, says he expects guidance to be a lot more positive in light of the recent economic outlook, but he adds that the pace of earnings acceleration will likely slow because companies cannot squeeze costs much further. The S&P 500 is expected to have finished 2010 with EPS of about $80, a 30% increase over the previous year. That growth is expected to slow, however, to less than 15% in 2011 and 12% in 2012, according to estimates from Bloomberg. Companies also face the challenge of coming up against tougher year-over-year comparisons. "This could be the last round of quarterly beats," Orlando told TheStreet, although he expects the market to continue to stay strong as valuation multiples are still fair.
The week will bring earnings reports from the major banks including Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C) and Goldman Sachs ( GS).
A strong beat from JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) has likely raised Wall Street's expectations for its peers. Investors will also be interested in management commentary on potential dividend hikes after JPMorgan's brass hinted at the possibility on Friday. Randy Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial Service, expects banks to do particularly well this year. "2011 could be the year of the banks," he said, adding "We will be doubling and tripling down on our positions." Warren expects the big banks to step up lending again, which will drive earnings growth. Tuesday will be a particularly busy day for earnings watchers. In addition to Citigroup, tech giants Apple ( AAPL) and IBM ( IBM) are slated to reveal their numbers. Also reporting is LED stock favorite Cree ( CREE). Intel's strong results have raised expectations for both the chipmakers themselves, and the companies that manufacture semiconductor capital equipment. Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo ( WFC), and a clutch of regional banks will be reporting on Wednesday. The focus shifts back to tech on Thursday with Google ( GOOG) and Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) on tap. Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Freeport McMoRan ( FCX) are other reports of note, while Dow components Bank of America and General Electric ( GE) wrap things up with their reports on Friday. Housing starts, existing-home sales, regional manufacturing data and jobless claims are economic reports due next week. --Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Shanthi Bharatwaj. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/shavenk. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.