updated 7/24/2005 4:32:44 PM ET 2005-07-24T20:32:44

Wall Street has come a very long way in just four short weeks, riding a wave of positive earnings reports and lower oil prices to four-year highs on the Nasdaq composite index and Standard & Poor’s 500.

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But even if earnings continue to shine, investors may be hard pressed to bid stocks higher — there are enough roadblocks in the near future that may encourage more wait-and-see attitudes to emerge.

Corporate earnings have been very good this quarter. With slightly more than 40 percent of the S&P 500 reporting so far, 72 percent of them have exceeded expectations. But there’s also been a somewhat disturbing trend in that more companies are warning that the current quarter’s earnings may fall below analysts’ estimates.

It’s hard to say whether the negative forecasts will reach critical mass, but it could be a source of unease as Wall Street tries to keep its rally going.

FOMC meeting looms
In addition, the Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting is just two weeks away. The Fed is widely expected to hike interest rates by one quarter point to 3.5 percent, which would be the 10th rate hike since last summer. Investors, however, want to know when the rate hikes will stop, and nervousness over the prospect of even more increases through the fall and winter could prompt selling ahead of the Aug. 8 meeting.

Finally, oil prices surged past $58 per barrel Friday, and a sustained increase in crude futures could darken hopes of moving the market higher.

In this market, even good news may not be enough, at least for the short term.

GDP figures may move market
The week ahead will have a couple of potentially market-moving economic reports, the most important of which will be the government’s gross domestic product figure for the second quarter, due Friday. Economists expect the economy will have grown at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent in the quarter, down from a 3.8 percent increase in the first quarter.

Stronger GDP growth would be bullish for the economy, but could prompt stocks to sell off as investors worry that the Fed will continue raising interest rates. A lower-than-expected reading could also prompt a selloff as investors worry about declining corporate earnings. A reading that nails expectations on the head could be the best news on Wall Street.

On Wednesday, the Commerce Department will release its latest report on orders for durable goods, those big-ticket items designed to last at least three years. After durable goods orders surged an unexpected 5.5 percent in May, economists are expecting an 0.1 percent decrease for June.

Boeing, DuPont, Verizon report
With 18 of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Index components already having reported earnings, only five Dow companies are due with earnings this week: American Express Co., Boeing Co., DuPont de Nemours & Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc.

Among other notable companies, investors are likely to keep a close eye on Texas Instruments Inc.’s earnings, due after Monday’s session. With the company’s widely diversified product offerings, some see it as an even better barometer of the tech sector than Microsoft Corp. or Intel Corp. Texas Instruments is expected to earn 29 cents per share, up from 25 cents per share in the same quarter last year. The company’s stock has climbed steadily since its 52-week low of $18.06 on Aug. 13, 2004, rising 70.2 percent to close Friday at $30.76.

Investors will also look closely at Time Warner Inc. to see whether the summer’s box office slowdown could be a problem for film studios. After reaching a 52-week high of $19.90 on Dec. 15, Time Warner has fallen 16.4 percent, closing Friday at $16.64. The media conglomerate is expected to earn 20 cents per share, up slightly from 19 cents per share last year, when it reports its results Wednesday morning.

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