Nicholas Colas is of a similar mind.
Investors "wake up one morning to realize we're at valuation levels that actually demand some follow-through from corporate results," said Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx group.
He points to a price-to-earnings multiple on the S&P 500 that rose from 13.5 to 16.3 over the course of 2013, meaning that investors are paying much more for earnings.
"Most of the stock market's return was on P/E multiple expansion, plus confidence in the recovery and Fed stimulus," Colas told CNBC.com. "Against that backdrop, it becomes much more important for companies to meet earnings—both in the aggregate and on a company-specific level."
Colas argues that any given company will not be allowed to be as complacent when it comes to the impact of earnings on its stock price.
"A year ago, the stock market was trading at a discount, and you were trading at a discount. And let's not forget that you missed earnings last year," he said. "Given that the stock market was up 30 percent last year and you didn't make your numbers, you might want to be reconsider that complacency."
Trader Anthony Grisanti of GRZ Energy says he will watch Q4 results closely.
"I think earnings will start to matter more this quarter than the last three," Grisanti agreed. "If earnings start to come in bad, then we're getting a little toppy here, and we're probably about to get the correction we've all been waiting for."
For Colas, the broader lesson is that even positive earnings and economic results might not be enough to take stocks higher in 2014.
"This is just one microcosm of why stocks just churn here," he said. "The stock market is a discounting mechanism, and we're seeing signals that the market has already figured out that this is a good year. Now investors are putting a question mark on data and earnings and saying, 'Now what?'"