The Week Ahead: Clarity Awaits

Last week proved to be a challenging one for the stock market. All of the major indices were in the red -- the S&P 500 fell 2.2% for the week, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.1%. Even though last week kicked off third-quarter earnings season with a trickle, economic data took the back seat to reports from Alcoa (AA), Yum! Brands (YUM), Costco (COST) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM). While all of those companies beat quarterly expectations, some of the internals here -- in addition to revised outlooks -- were what raised eyebrows. 

Earnings -- or, rather, earnings growth -- remains the center of attention, as does the outlook in China. Company signals were somewhat mixed on that country. Yum! Brands continued to benefit from its strong foothold in the region, while Alcoa cut its aluminum-demand expectations for the rest of 2012, largely due to China's economic slowdown. Helen of Troy (HELE), a maker of personal car products, not only missed third-quarter expectations but cited a difficult retail sales environment and lowered its 2012 outlook for the second time. ...954 more words left in this article. To read them, just click below and try Real Money FREE for 14 days.

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