Week ahead: Quarterly earnings, inflation data

Investors may quickly forget about the disappointing March jobs report. If they really want to worry about something that will upend the 6-month stock market rally, they might turn to first quarter corporate earnings season, which kicks-off when Alcoa reports on Tuesday. According to FactSet, this could be the quarter that will end the nine-quarter streak of earnings growth for S&P 500 companies, with projections of a decline 0.1 percent year-over-year. (Apple is the largest contributor to earnings growth for the S&P 500 for the quarter. If Apple is excluded, the projected earnings growth rate for the index would fall to -1.6 percent.)

Corporate profits have marched higher for over two years, as lean companies captured rebounding demand. But those good fortunes could come to a halt as higher costs and slowing growth eat into margins. As companies announce Q1 numbers, investors will focus on future guidance to determine whether the economy is entering a "mid-cycle slowdown" (aka a breather) or a more significant downturn.

There is a potential upside to a slowdown in economic growth: A downshift might prompt the Federal Reserve to launch a third permutation of quantitative easing (QE3), which could boost risk assets like stocks and commodities. Last week, investors went into full-blown angst-mode, after the FOMC Minutes showed fewer voting members in favor of further quantitative easing. After reaching new 52-week highs the day before the minutes were released, investors confronted a stark reality: What happens if things go all too well in the economy? If that were to occur, the Fed might (gasp) allow the economy to stand on its own and put a halt to its various liquidity programs.

The Fed's willingness to act will be influenced by inflation reports. This week, readings on import prices, wholesale and consumer inflation should provide a better understanding of price movement, both with and without the energy components. Bernanke has emphasized that the recent spike in oil and gas prices is temporary - companies and consumers alike are hoping that's the case.

Investors closed out a holiday-shortened week with the worst results of 2012. Luckily markets were closed on Friday, so the reaction to the punk jobs report will have to wait until the opening bell Monday. As a reminder, the S&P 500 is up 28 percent from the Oct. 3 lows, so no frowning, please.

-- DJIA: 13,060, down 1.1% on week, up 6.9% on year

-- S&P 500: 1,408, down 0.7% on week, up 11.1% on year

-- NASDAQ: 3080, down 0.4%, up 18.2% on year

-- May Crude Oil: $103.31, up 0.3% on week

-- June Gold: $ 1,630.10, down 2.4% on the week

-- AAA National Average Price for Gallon of Regular Gas: $3.93

FACTOIDS OF THE WEEK: March Jobs Report

-- Jobs created: +120,000 (Feb revised up by 13,000 to 240,000; Jan revised down by 9,000 to 275,000, totaling a net addition of 4,000 jobs)

-- Private sector jobs created: +121,000

-- Government: -1,000

-- Unemployment rate: 8.2 percent (lowest rate since January 2009)

-- Under-employment rate (marginally-attached, part-time): 14.5% (from 14.9% -- in 2007, the rate was 8%)

-- Total number of unemployed: 12.7 million (from 12.8 million)

-- Long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks and over): 5.3 million, representing 42.5% of the total unemployed (since April 2010, the number of long-term unemployed has dropped by 1.4 million)

-- Average duration of unemployment: 39.4 weeks (from 40 weeks)

-- Average workweek: 34.5 (from 34.6)

-- Average hourly earnings: up $0.05 to $23.39 (up 2.1% over past 12 months)

THE WEEK AHEAD:

Mon 4/9:

Tues 4/10:

Alcoa

7:30 NFIB Small Business Optimism Index

10:00 Wholesale inventories

10:00 Feb Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS)

Weds 4/11:

7:00 Weekly mortgage applications

8:30 Import-export prices

2:00 Fed Beige Book

2:00 Treasury budget

Thurs 4/12:

Rite Aid

8:30 Weekly jobless claims

8:30 Producer price index

8:30 International trade

Fri 4/13:

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo

8:30 Consumer price index

9:55 Consumer sentiment