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US hard hitters to lead the markets

This has all the makings of a highly volatile week for the markets, as second-quarter earnings numbers from the US really get into their stride. With the losing stretch for many stocks now reaching four straight weeks, these blue chip updates could prove pivotal in shaping market direction. The highlights to watch out for are <strong>Goldman Sachs, Intel</strong> and <strong>Johnson &amp; Johnson</strong> tomorrow, <strong>IBM</strong> and <strong>Google</strong> on Thursday and <strong>Bank of America</strong>, <strong>Citigroup</strong> and <strong>General Electric on Friday</strong>. Of these it&rsquo;s hard to isolate the most important as they are all such classic barometers of the US economy, but I feel that investors will particularly focus on GE due to the wide spectrum of sectors it covers. Expectations for an earnings per share of 23 cents versus 54 cents for the same period a year ago are already low. <br /><br />There&rsquo;s plenty to keep the markets moving from the economic calendar too. Wednesday is a key day with US inflation numbers, crude oil inventories, minutes from the last FOMC meeting and inflation figures all vying for attention.&nbsp; <br /><br />We are calling a positive open on the major European bourses this morning. GFT is quoting the FTSE 100 to open up 20 points at 4,127, the German DAX 30 to open up 14 at 4,590 and the French CAC 30 is looking at an open of 2,997, up 14 points. Watch out for oil, with Brent and WTI closing below $60 a barrel on Friday this may well put pressure on the likes of <strong>BP</strong> and <strong>Shell</strong> this morning.