NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Earnings season is an exciting time for analysts, market commentators and investors as numerous companies from across the market spectrum step up to the plate to report their performance numbers for the most recent three month period and forecast what will be in store ahead.Given the number of companies reporting during these boisterous weeks, stock picking can be a tricky, time-consuming task for long-term, risk adverse investors. The broad investing strategies offer an instant diversification that comes with using ETFs can help make the next few weeks easier to navigate. The industrials are on tap this week, as companies including Caterpillar ( CAT), Boeing ( BA), United Technologies ( UTX), and Honeywell ( HON) step up to announce their quarterly earnings performance. Given the expansive reach these companies have from both a sector and geographic perspective, their quarterly numbers and outlooks for the coming year will likely provide investors with excellent insight into the state of the global economic recovery as a whole. Prior to the reports slated for the latter half of this week, investors have already gotten a taste of what to expect from these major industrial entities. Over the past few days, industry leaders General Electric ( GE) and 3M ( MMM) have presented their own quarterly reports. In both cases, optimism appears to be a theme. GE started things off on Friday, announcing analyst-topping profit growth thanks to the ongoing recovery taking place across a number of the company's branches. Although it managed to surpass analyst estimates as well, 3M offered up more tepid numbers, featuring most noticeably a decline in quarterly profits. While this initially raised alarm, it is important to note that the dip was associated with costs related to the company's uptick in acquisitions. Indicating that they foresee strength in the near future, following the announcement of its quarterly numbers, the Post-It note creator raised its outlook for 2011. Investors looking for instant access to GE, 3M, and the sea of industry-related companies scheduled on the earnings calendar for the second half of this week will find promise in the Industrial Select Sector SPDR ( XLI). Designed to target the largest components of the industrial industry, the fund's top holdings read as a roster of household names in business. XLI's five largest positions include GE, UTX, UPS, MMM, and CAT and together represent over 30% of the fund's total portfolio.
XLI has had a strong run even prior to this most recent earnings season and has managed to move higher in both our long and short term momentum rankings. Another fund risk tolerant investors may find attractive given this week's industrial-heavy earnings calendar is the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Aerospace & Defense Index Fund ( ITA). Aside from Boeing, ITA will be heavily influenced by Lockheed Martin ( LMT), Raytheon ( RTN) and L-3 Communications ( LLL) which are slated to report their performance numbers. Like other subsector products, by targeting a small, concentrated corner of the industrials ITA is typically more susceptible to volatility. While this may boost the chance of seeing stronger upside potential for those with a stronger stomach for risk, ITA is also vulnerable to steeper slides lower in times of market tension. As markets around the globe continue to recover and gather steam, the industrial sector will be a region of the market to keep watch on. Embracing this slice as a whole, however, can be difficult given the diverse businesses companies like GE, Boeing, and Caterpillar target. A fund such as XLI helps to alleviate these concerns and makes for a strong, stable, long-term play on the industry. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.