After a rally of almost seven months, stock investors will search earnings reports anxiously this week for signs that companies are seeing a pickup in demand.
Monday kicks off the busiest week in corporate America's earnings season. Roughly one-third of the Standard & Poor's 500 companies are scheduled to issue financial results, including heavyweights Citigroup Inc., Microsoft Corp., 3M Co., Merck & Co. and AT&T Corp.
Most investors anticipate a solid batch of earnings reports, and many are betting that a few standouts will carry the market higher this week. But even as the economic data point to a strengthening economy, some worry that the stock market has already priced in a big economic recovery.
"Companies are not only meeting analysts' expectations but beating them, and if that happens, we'll have a really good week," said Ozan Akcin, chief market strategist at Puglisi & Co. in New York.