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Expand chart
Data: S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Companies are about to blast out a blizzard of quarterly profit and sales numbers over the next few weeks, as the carnival of Q4 corporate results kicks off.

Driving the news: Large banks will open the floodgates, issuing reports early Friday that mark the unofficial start of earnings season on Wall Street.

Why it matters: Earnings reports tell investors, analysts and economists how the economy translates into sales and profits for corporations. They also make stocks move — sometimes a lot.

The big picture: So far, corporate America has had a very good pandemic.

  • Though profits initially took a hit in 2020, they rebounded to what was almost certainly record highs last year. (We won't know for sure until the new batch of numbers, which cover the last three months of 2021, are in.)

State of play: You'll sometimes hear executives bellyaching about recent inflation trends such as rising raw material prices, and increasing wages, arguing that they could cut into profits.

  • It is true those input costs keep rising. A key gauge of wholesale prices — out Thursday — showed them up nearly 10% as of November, compared to the previous year.

The bottom line: Large companies have had no problem passing those costs along to consumers, which is why profit margins — that is, profits as a share of sales — are also at record highs.

Go deeper

Retail sales slipped a surprising 1.9% in December

Shoppers in San Francisco on Dec. 22. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retail sales fell 1.9% in December compared to the previous month, suggesting that shoppers bought holiday gifts earlier last year as they faced rising inflation and supply chain issues.

Driving the news: The data is much lower than the 0% change predicted by economists, according to FactSet.

Hope King, author of Closer
Jan 14, 2022 - Economy & Business

Record level consumer demand drops as high prices surge

Data: FRED; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Record levels of consumer demand are petering out as high prices cut into wages and add to household worries.

Why it matters: Shoppers will hold off on buying if goods get too expensive — a trend that if big enough could slow down economic growth.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.