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Adobe Systems, Oracle, Nike, FedEx and KBHome are part of Zacks Earnings Preview:

CHICAGO, March 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- releases the list of companies likely to issue earnings surprises. This week's list includes Adobe Systems (Nasdaq:ADBE-Free Report),  Oracle (NYSE:ORCL-Free Report), Nike (NYSE:NKE-Free Report), FedEx (NYSE:FDX-Free Report) and KB Home (NYSE:KBH-Free Report).

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Q1 Earnings Season Getting Underway

We will start counting Tuesday's earnings announcements from Adobe Systems (Nasdaq:ADBE-Free Report) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL-Free Report) as part of 2014 Q1 reporting cycle, though we are still a few weeks away from the earnings season taking the spotlight.

The market has plenty of domestic economic data to digest this week in a backdrop of developments in Ukraine and renewed questions about China's growth outlook. On the docket this week are a host of housing, inflation, and manufacturing sector reports, but the focus will be on the FOMC meeting, particularly Fed Chairwoman Yellen's first press conference.

The Fed isn't expected to spring any surprises on the market. But with the unemployment rate not too far from the Fed's 6.5% target, they will need to move past explicit thresholds without roiling the markets. This isn't easy to do, as too vague a threshold leaves open the risk that the market gets ahead of the Fed in pricing the eventual monetary tightening. The FOMC could address this issue in its official statement on Wednesday, but the issue is bound to come in Janet Yellen's press event that afternoon.

Beyond the Fed and economic data, we have a number of corporate bellwethers coming out with 2014 Q1 results (companies with fiscal quarters ending in February and reporting in March get counted as part of Q1 tally), which includes besides Oracle, Nike (NYSE:NKE-Free Report), FedEx (NYSE:FDX-Free Report) and KB Home (NYSE:KBH-Free Report).

These Q1 earnings reports aside, we are in the transition phase between two earnings seasons when the last one hasn't completely ended even as the new one is upon us. Of this week's 80 earnings announcements, there are only 18 companies with fiscal quarters ending in February and getting counted towards the Q1 tally; the rest belong the 2013 Q4 reporting cycle (we have Q4 earnings reports from 497 S&P 500 companies, as of Friday, March 14th).

Expectations for 2014 Q1

Estimates for 2014 Q1 started coming down at an accelerated pace as companies predominantly guided lower on the 2013 Q4 earnings calls, consistent with the trend we have been seeing for more than a year now. Total Q1 earnings for companies in the S&P 500 are currently expected to be down -1.5% from the same period last year, a material decline from the +2.1% growth expected in early January 2014.

The negative revision trend is widespread, but is particularly notable for the Retail, Basic Materials, Autos, Consumer Staples, and the Energy sectors, as the chart below shows.

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