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Netflix Inc., the king of streaming entertainment, unveils the latest update on its own financial drama on Monday.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Four earnings reports over the next two weeks will have a lot to say about what lies ahead for North American stock markets.

Netflix Inc., the king of streaming entertainment, unveils the latest update on its own financial drama on Monday. Alphabet Inc., parent of search colossus Google, delivers its results on Thursday. Social-media kingpin Facebook Inc. and uber-retailer Inc. reveal their numbers the following week.

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google – the so-called FANGs – dominate Internet commerce. Not coincidentally, they have also been among the few big winners in a stock market that conspicuously lacks star power.

Strong results from the online overachievers could bolster the case for economic optimism and gains for other stocks as well. Weakness would suggest that a generally lacklustre U.S. market is losing some of its few remaining bright spots.

The newest round of FANG reports come at a particularly sensitive moment. After some vicious ups and downs in recent months, the S&P 500 index now stands just about exactly where it did a year ago – evidence of a market with no clear direction but lots of conflicting signals.

Optimists argue that stocks in general are on a tear, with the benchmark index up more than 10 per cent since the lows it hit in mid-February. Rising energy and metal prices, fading fears of a Chinese hard landing, as well as strong U.S. jobs numbers add to the happy picture.

Pessimists retort that the outlook for corporate profit is dismal. Across the S&P 500, earnings per share are expected to fall 8.1 per cent this quarter – one reason why the global equity team at HSBC says there is "zero upside" to the U.S. stock market this year. While the U.S. labour picture may be brightening, skeptics say a better jobs outlook will only add to pressure for higher wages, which will further erode profit margins.

As the bulls and bears battle it out, one of the few facts beyond dispute is the huge outperformance of the FANG stocks. Each of them has soared more than 30 per cent over the past few 12 months, leaving the stagnant index far behind.

Their earnings reports over the next two weeks will show just how much juice is left in their stories.

Expectations are sky-high, especially when it comes to revenue. Sales are expected to jump 48 per cent at Facebook, 25 per cent at Netflix, 23 per cent at Amazon and 19 per cent at Alphabet.

Those are strikingly enthusiastic forecasts for well-entrenched companies that already span the globe. By comparison, revenue across the entire S&P 500 is expected to barely budge at all. The disparity between the two groups is why strong numbers for the FANGs are vital if the market is to maintain any upward momentum.

Yet it's anyone's guess what the latest results may show. "Investors seem more perplexed than normal about what to expect" from the FANGs this earnings season, says Mark May, an analyst with Citigroup Inc. He is neutral about the outlook for Netflix, which has to wrestle with slowing growth in the United States, increased competition and an expensive expansion into international markets. But he likes the prospects for Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook, all of which he labels as "buys."

However, many investors don't seem quite so sure about what comes next. Share prices at both Netflix and Amazon have slid since their peaks late last year while Alphabet and Facebook have traded in narrow ranges for months.

In part, this reflects the lofty prices already attached to these securities. While the average stock in the S&P 500 fetches about 19 times its trailing earnings, Alphabet trades at 34 times, Facebook at 86 times, Netflix at 390 times and Amazon at 500 times.

The stratospheric valuations demonstrate the high hopes that investors have built up around the companies.

Even a whisper of an unexpected problem could bring any of the FANG stocks crashing down to Earth and cast a shadow over the market. Conversely, stronger-than-anticipated results could lead to more gains and renewed optimism about the broader index. This week and next, we'll find out which it is.