Talk of an economic-recovery breakthrough goes only so far. At some point, it has to start showing up on corporate balance sheets.
That will be the great challenge for companies who begin reporting earnings in the weeks ahead. They'll have to show not only that they have pared back costs and employment rolls but also that they are generating the kind of end-demand that will increase sales and ensure stronger growth.
Otherwise, all this talk of interest rates rising for the right reason—sustainable growth—will ring hollow, and the Federal Reserve's crisis-level monetary policy will continue to be counted on to save the day.
"The issue almost all the time is going to be, what about revenue growth?" said Brian Gendreau, market strategist with the Financial Network. "It's going to be an interesting season. What often happens is the market gets focused on macro things like the Fed until earnings come along. Then it shifts back into individual companies."
(Read More: Earnings Season Looks Like a Train Wreck)
Market expectations are low for second-quarter profits.
S&P Capital IQ took down its estimates again this week to 2.8 percent for the S&P 500 bottom-line profit.
As for top-line revenue, expectations are barely positive, at roughly 0.5 percent.