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Investors Warily Await Earnings Onslaught

This week traditionally is not a great favorite on Wall Street, since the April 15 IRS deadline each year tends to draw money from the market as investors write checks to cover their tax liabilities.

Of course, given last year's disastrous ticker results, capital gains likely aren't the most pressing problem for investors who loaded up on shares of eToys, priceline.com, CMGI and ... well, just about everything else.

If Uncle's Sam's annual shakedown weren't enough to weigh down the markets, this week we'll see the Q1 earnings season kick off with a number of significant technology companies filing results that should fulfill the most pessimistic of expectations.

One will come from search and portal leader Yahoo , which is expected to break even, excluding acquisition-related costs and other expenses, after reporting a net profit of 13 cents per share for last year's fourth quarter.

Others will come from this year's worst-performing Internet sector -- wireless. No less than three wireless device manufacturers will issue quarterly results. None are expected to provide relief for investors, though one should at least post a profit.

Wall Street probably will be less interested in Yahoo's actual Q1 numbers than in any guidance provided by the company for the rest of the year. In March, when Yahoo lowered its Q1 estimates to "breakeven" from a net profit of 5 cents per share, executives begged off any long-term forecasts due to lack of "visibility" regarding the U.S. economy's direction. When Yahoo shares its numbers following the market's close on Wednesday, investors are hoping for an indication that the market for online advertising has bottomed out.

They won't get it, however. While Yahoo will reiterate it is ''committed to break-even profitability'' for the year, don't count on any grand proclamations that the worst is behind us. Remember, this is a company whose CEO resigned less than a month ago.

Yahoo closed Friday at $14.81. Back in early January, when it was around $30, I wrote that YHOO "shares could drop as low as $15 in coming months and, depending on broader market trends, single digits aren't out of the question." Indeed, single digits are looking like a good bet.

The three wireless device makers -- Handspring, Research in Motion and Motorola -- all are being punished by lower consumer demand for handhelds and excessive inventories. The Internet wireless sector, which doesn't include cellular phone manufacturer Motorola, plummeted 58% in the first quarter, with all 20 companies tracked by the Internet Stock Report dropping in value.

On Tuesday, Motorola is expected to report a Q1 net loss, before charges, of 7 cents per share. MOT's operating loss will be its first in 15 years.

Research in Motion , maker of the BlackBerry two-way e-mail pager, reports quarterly results on Wednesday. Consensus estimates call for a net profit of 7 cents per share.

A day later, Palm competitor Handspring is due to report a net loss of 6 cents per share for its fiscal third quarter.