Will earnings kill the party?

For the past few weeks, investors have "partied like its 1999." It felt like the heady days of the tech bubble and not the iconic song by Prince.

They have taken a "What me worry?" attitude that would make Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional mascot of Mad magazine, proud. Investors sent the major indexes soaring after data showed some small hints of improvement in the economy, even as 663,000 jobs were lost in March.

"Over the last four weeks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 20.35 percent, the best four-week performance since 1933," according to MarketWatch. But will the gains continue even though every pundit from Jim Cramer to your know-it-all relatives expects first quarter earnings to be dreadful? The answer for at least today is a resounding "maybe."

Shares in Europe and Asia were higher this morning amidst the positive response to HSBC PLC's 12.9 billion rights issue, which allayed concerns caused by yet another North Korean missile test. Japan's government also plans on spending $100 billion to pull its economy out of its worst recession since World War II. S&P futures were down early Monday morning on concerns that IBM's (IBM) planned acquisition of Sun Microsystems (JAVA) had collapsed.

Some pundits argue that the good times are not going to last.

According to Bloomberg News, financial services firms remain a storm cloud looming over the economy and any celebration by investors may be premature. And earnings season, which kicks off this week, could increase the gloom.

"While rising home sales and durable-goods orders show the economy may be bottoming, unemployment and consumer debt, as well as prospects that banks will be forced to write-down more loans, may halt the gain in equities," the news service says.

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