A steady stream of downbeat news seemed to leave the market unmoved for most of the week -- until the bluest of the blue chips, CNBC.com parent General Electric, posted first-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street expectations
by seven cents per share, and lowered its full-year guidance.
The stunning development wiped out the latest hopes of an imminent economic upturn, and left investors asking, "What does it say about the rest of earnings season?"
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. (See the whole wrap in the accompanying video).
On Monday, Harbor Advisory's Jack DeGan posted a long list of stocks for an investor to buy, in order to be positioned for the recovery to come: Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott Laboratories, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi-Cola, and Allegheny Energy.
"If you want to play a chicken way of getting back into the market, this is where you would start," DeGan told CNBC.
David Katz of Matrix Asset Advisors suggested some other stocks may be ready to rally.
"Dell, Wyeth, McGraw-Hill," he said. "Dell had a very good conference last week; it almost assures that they're going to turn the business around within 12 months. The stock is at its bottom."
The market's seeming resistance to bad news inspired Scott Snyder of ICON International Funds to recommend a financial stock: France's BNP Paribas. He also liked Britis insurance company Aviva, and Mexican wireless operator America Movil.
"Basically, the whole emerging-market wireless space has really been pretty insulated from the whole economic slowdown here," Snyder said.
On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve released the minutes of its most recent policy meeting. They revealed worries among members of the Federal Open Market Committee about a "prolonged and severe business downturn." Investors interpreted that as a sign of further easing of interest rates.
Dan Genter of Genter Capital Management told CNBC he's ready to move into some selected financial stocks:
"The Fed is not going to let anything happen to JPMorgan; it's a fair-haired child right now," he said. "You can see a lot of other banks like US Bancorp, PNC, and the other regionals; if you want to take a little more risk, Wachovia."
On Wednesday, the downbeat developments included declining oil and gasoline inventories, which drove the price of oil to a record, and a lowered forecast from UPS. But Mike Stanfield of VSR Financial still said he liked the big bank stocks.
"We think the money-center banks have already seen their lows, and we would be buyers of the money-center banks like Wachovia or Wells Fargo on further weakness," Stanfield said.
Thursday was a more encouraging day for data. The Labor Department reported a drop in first-time claims for unemployment benefits, and Wal-Mart raised its earnings expectations.
David Sowerby of Loomis Sayles said middle-market retailers like Wal-Mart and its suppliers will soon benefit from the effects of the government's economic-stimulus tax rebates.
"Corning, who makes liquid-crystal displays for flat-panel screens,
that'll be a winner; DirecTV, more subscriptions, better cash flow," he said.
But for weeks, all of the rosy predictions from analysts and fund managers about recovery had begun with a warning about some nasty surprises still in store.
With GE's earnings announcement on Friday, investors finally found out some of what they had been talking about.