Investors Enter Heart Of Earnings Season

Following two weeks of impressive gains that have led many investors to hope the slumping economy and stock market have turned around, Wall Street gets a gut check this week.

With no interest-rate cut in the cards — that particular ace was played last Wednesday — and only a couple of major economic report due, the market must absorb a parade of negative earnings reports this week from major tech and Internet companies, with few catalysts to skew investor reaction.

Which should provide an excellent opportunity to determine how much of the recent and pending bad news has been built into stock prices.

The one economic report that could move the market significantly comes Tuesday, when the latest Consumer Confidence report is released. Last month investors were pleasantly surprised when March’s Consumer Confidence Index rose, reversing a five-month decline in that crucial indicator.

The CCI climbed eight points in March to 117, after had expected a dip to about 105 from February’s 106.8. The major stock exchanges and indexes responded by advancing anywhere from 2.6% to 3.0%.

But you can only break a losing streak once, so another gain in the CCI won’t be quite as startling as March’s unexpected gain, and thus may not have the same upside impact. Conversely, a resumption of the CCI’s downward trend could rattle investors. And if the CCI holds its ground, it may have no tangible effect on stocks.

On Friday, the Gross Domestic Product figure for the first quarter will be released. Economists are ballparking sluggish growth of 1% to 2% for the GDP. Investors, though, may pay less attention to the GDP than usual in light of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive, half-point interest-rate cut last week.

Among the tech and ‘Net companies expected to report losses this week are:

Internet access and services provider EarthLink . Consensus estimates call for a Q1 loss of 38 cents per share. ELNK has been one of the top year-to-date ticker performers among ‘Net stocks, with a gain through Friday of 114%. ELNK will release its Q1 after Tuesday’s market close.

Online retailer . The e-tail giant, also due to report Tuesday, pre-announced a net loss of 22 cents per share earlier this month.

Failing Web-based delivery service Webvan . Estimates are for an EPS of 19 cents. Webvan is due to announce Q1 results on Thursday. Don’t be surprised to see the bleeding company announce its demise in the near future.

Web services provider Exodus Communications . Another one scheduled for Thursday, EXDS is expected to report a loss of 28 cents per share.

Music download site . Due Friday,’s Q1 net loss is forecast at 8 cents per share.

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