Those robust sales start to look a little less robust, geopolitical factors start to creep in, currency valuations get fuzzy—whatever the excuse is, the future starts to get dimmer and dimmer.
In fact, by the time the earnings reports are actually released, expectations have been reduced so much that companies barely have to leave their feet to clear the massively lowered bar set for profits.
(Read More: Get ready for earnings—it's prove-it time)
Corporate America, though, is running into a problem.
After cutting and cutting and cutting to meet analyst expectations, companies have pretty well run out of cutting room and now have to find a way to generate sales.
And, according to the latest estimates, there was essentially no growth among S&P 500 companies in the second quarter.
Yet investors continue to bet stocks higher and higher, anticipating that multiples can continue to expand even where there seems little room for growth.
That leaves the question: Do earnings reports really matter? Is it in fact profit that drives investor sentiment, or is it something else?
Credit expansion, perhaps, as Carney suggests? (Carney loves debt.)
Or is it all just about central bank liquidity in a market completely divorced from fundamentals?
That's my position, and I think the 2013 market activity backs it up.
Carney and I duke it out along with Patti Domm and Cadie Thompson in the quest to find what really matters.
What do you think?—By CNBC's Jeff Cox. Follow him @JeffCoxCNBCcom on Twitter.