updated 7/12/2004 9:25:55 AM ET 2004-07-12T13:25:55

Earnings news will drive Wall Street this week, but concerns about slowing profit growth and higher oil prices could keep a cap on any gains.

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Quarterly results from widely watched companies such as Intel Corp. and Johnson & Johnson  will get the earnings season into full swing over the coming days.

A rash of economic data, including retail sales, the Producer Price Index and the Consumer Price Index, also will attract attention.

But worries that companies may signal slowing profit growth in the year’s second half could cause the market to drift, analysts say.

“This is what’s known as the summer doldrums,” said Larry Wachtel, senior vice president and market analyst at Wachovia Securities.

“We’re going to have to settle for the fact that this is a range-bound market, volume is low and there’s not much courage out there in terms of buying power.”

Paul Cherney, chief market analyst at Standard & Poor’s, said, “The concern is that we have reached a slowing point (for earnings growth).

“I expect the markets to stabilize and try to move higher, but I don’t think there will be a herd stampede to the buy side.”

For the past week, stocks fell. The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average  was down 0.68 percent for the week, while the tech-laced Nasdaq Composite Index  fell 3.01 percent and the broad Standard & Poor’s 500 index declined 1.12 percent.

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Investors had been hoping that second-quarter earnings would live up to -- or even beat -- the first quarter’s impressive growth.

But the season has been kicked off by a raft of disappointing statements, causing analysts to scale back estimates.

Tech firms such as PeopleSoft  surprised on the downside, slashing its forecast, and its stock fell as much as 8 percent last week. Internet media company Yahoo Inc., reported a quarterly profit that more than doubled, driven by higher ad revenue. But Yahoo’s stock tumbled in after-hours trading last week after it gave a current-quarter forecast below Wall Street estimates.

Yet blue-chip conglomerate General Electric Co. managed to bolster investor sentiment at the end of the week after Chief Executive Jeff Immelt called the U.S. economy “the best we’ve seen in years.” GE’s earnings rose slightly.

“The first few days (of earnings) have been terrible,” Wachtel said. “GE helped on Friday, but there’s been a rash of negative pre-announcements. There are concerns that while numbers themselves will be OK, the guidance going forward will be less so.”

Kicking off this week’s run of quarterly earnings reports will be SunTrust Banks Inc. Monday. Bank of America Corp.  will report Wednesday. Results from Citigroup Inc. and Wachovia Corp. are due Thursday. The following week, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. will report earnings.

Among the technology-related firms, chipmaker Intel will post earnings Tuesday. Its rival and Silicon Valley neighbor Advanced Micro Devices  will report Wednesday. Apple Computer Inc.  earnings are also due Wednesday.

Consumer-focused companies reporting results this week include health-care products group Johnson & Johnson Tuesday and PepsiCo Inc. Thursday.

“The focus (this week) is going to be on earnings,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. “If they’re just in line, it may not be good enough. It is a question of whether they exceed expectations. The market is looking for upside here.”

One of the week’s most important economic figures will be Wednesday’s June retail sales number. Economists polled by Reuters are forecasting a 0.6 percent decline in overall retail sales after a drop in motor vehicle sales during the month.

“Consumers are 70 percent of the economy and if they begin to take a holiday, then we have a problem,” Wachtel cautioned.

The U.S. Producer Price Index for June, due Thursday, will give a reading on inflation at the producer, or wholesale, level. The PPI tracks the prices of product components as goods move through the manufacturing and distribution process.

The forecast for the overall PPI calls for a gain of 0.2 percent in June, according to economists polled by Reuters. Core PPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, also is expected to rise 0.2 percent.

Friday’s release of the U.S. Consumer Price Index for June could also move the market. The CPI is closely watched by the Federal Reserve in determining interest rates, and a strong CPI series may encourage further rate hikes. On June 30, the Fed raised the federal funds rate to 1.25 percent from a 46-year low at 1 percent, the first tightening in four years.

The forecast calls for both overall CPI and core CPI, which excludes food and energy prices, to rise 0.2 percent in June, according to economists polled by Reuters.

Wall Street will continue to be concerned about high oil prices, which have an impact on corporate profits. Oil futures jumped back above $40 a barrel this week. The NYMEX August crude contract settled Friday at $39.96.

“There’s a geopolitical premium in the oil price that’s never going to go away until things settle down in Iraq,” Wachtel said.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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