USGDP will be the major trader focus

THIRD quarter earnings season is well and truly under way, and this week we are faced with a barrage of results from both sides of the pond. <br /><br />In the UK we have BP reporting tomorrow, BG Group and GlaxoSmithkline on Wednesday and AstraZeneca and Royal Dutch Shell out on Thursday. <br /><br />ExxonMobil, Procter and Gamble and Verizon report in the States. <br /><br />Of all these, BP and ExxonMobil will probably carry the most influence over market direction. <br /><br />With oil prices averaging around half where they were this time last year, BP is looking at underlying profits for the quarter of around &pound;1.9bn - around a third of the number reported a year ago. <br /><br />But it&rsquo;s the US GDP number, out on Thursday, which will be prime focus on traders&rsquo; radars this week. <br /><br />After last Friday&rsquo;s surprisingly low number released by the UK, we can expect to see some apprehension creeping into the markets ahead of Thursday&rsquo;s release, with traders pricing in an increased likelihood of a similarly disappointing US number. Overall, expectations however are still positive, with hopes high for a first quarter of growth to be posted since the second quarter of 2008. <br /><br />We can expect plenty of pre-announcement media hype, along the lines that the number could well represent the end of the longest recession in post-World War <br />Two history, but I see the downside as having more potential here.