NEW YORK ( TheStreet ) -- Heading into earnings season, the mood is admittedly reserved. Despite the strong start to the year, analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal reportedly expect to see some of lowest growth figures since the end of the financial crisis. Weakening economic performance from China and Europe is certainly a contributing factor to this conservative outlook. In addition, however, it is important to remember that the bar has also been raised as the global economy has fought its way back from the crippling Great Recession.
This week, big-picture news will again steal headlines. In Monday's " 5 ETFs to Watch This Week ," I noted that a spattering of Chinese data points are slated for release on Thursday. Some of the focus should shift from big-picture issues to individual firms as earnings season heats up. For ETF investors, the coming weeks will be exciting to watch. In traditional fashion, Alcoa ( AA) will kick things off when it steps up to the plate after today's closing bell. The aluminum giant's performance is worth monitoring as a barometer for economic activity. However, for ETF investors, the company's direct sway over fund performance is minor. The SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF ( XME) boasts some of the heaviest exposure to Alcoa, though it sets aside only 3% of its assets to the firm. For ETF investors looking for direct earnings plays, the important movers to monitor this week are search giant Google ( GOOG) and financial titans, JPMorgan ( JPM) and Wells Fargo ( WFC). With 10% of its assets dedicated to the company, the First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund ( FDN) is the most effective way for ETF investors to target Google. Meanwhile, targeting major financial players can be tricky.