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Perhaps we're still a bit early in announcing this -- then again, our senior staff's earlier prediction seems to be bearing out -- but 4th quarter earnings season looks like a big improvement over the 3rd quarter. Earnings reports from Morgan Stanley (MS - Analyst Report) and General Electric (GE - Analyst Report) both beat estimates this morning, following a positive surprise from Intel (INTC - Analyst Report) yesterday afternoon (though Intel guidance has sent the stock down in the pre-market today).

And while there still are plenty of issues to be wary of here in early 2013 -- tax increases and spending cuts, both of which are expected to curb economic growth -- generally speaking, things are looking up. Traction in the housing market continues, retail and auto sales are showing improvement, and overall bank earnings thus far have further advanced the narrative that our harshest economic ordeals are definitely in the rear view.

Only around a quarter of companies have yet reported, but we're seeing roughly three positive surprises for each negative one. This is actually historically typical, as companies have by now mastered the art of under-promising and over-delivering earnings and revenues. And if not for major downward guidance during the course of Q4, we certainly would not be celebrating success the way we are able to do this morning.

We may, in fact, be in a similar pattern to the last couple years: hopeful, positive sentiment in the early months which gives way to grimmer realities in the back-half. Perhaps we'll break out of this pattern and see growth accelerate once economic policies are decided and we can better navigate the playing field, but this remains to be seen.

The markets will be closed for the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday, but we here at Zacks will still be open to offer our subscribers new methods, opportunities and recommendations to improve their portfolios. And while plenty of big-name companies have already put forth quarterly earnings numbers, next week we really get hit with both barrels, including reports from Apple (AAPL - Analyst Report) and Google . Stay tuned!

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