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GE earnings: one of five things to watch April 21

GE earnings to get plenty of scrutiny after Japan nuclear fallout, tax stories. Dozens of high-profile companies will report earnings Thursday.

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President Obama (right) passes a turbine as he tours General Electric's birthplace with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt in Schenectady, N.Y., in this Jan. 21, 2011, file photo. GE is expected to report a 33 percent rise in first-quarter profit on April 21, 2011, with improved performance at its finance arm more than offsetting roughly flat results at its big industrial units. GE earnings are only one of dozens of big-name earnings reports to be released Thursday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/File

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Citi hosts shareholders following Pandit's first profitable year, while closing arguments continue in the trial of Raj Rajaratnam, where things aren't looking too good for him. But, with the holiday-shortened week, the pupu platter of earnings is the story Thursday. Here's what we're watching…

1. Apple Aftermath: As we asked yesterday, who'd be shocked if Apple blew through Wall Street's targets? Well, surprise, surprise, they reported a monster quarter late Thursday. Powered by better-than-expected Mac and iPhone sales, the $6.40 a share profits lifted shares by more than 3 percent in after-hours trading. The tech titan's numbers set the stage for Verizon's pre-market release of its own, in which investors will focus squarely on how many iPhones it sold in the first quarter of availability on the network.

2. Financials' Financials: The duo of Blackstone and Blackrock offer up quarterly results before the bell Tuesday. Steve Schwarzman and his masters of the universe are expected to announce profits of $0.41 a share. Shares in Blackstone are trading near a 52-week high, riding a better run the past few months than Larry Fink's Blackrock. The Wall Street consensus is $2.33 a share for the world's largest asset manager. Investment bank Morgan Stanley hopes to follow rival Goldman Sachs with a sound beat over estimates of a weak quarter. Beyond underwriting, there's not much in the way of positives anticipated by analysts. The list goes on though: BB&T, Fifth Third and PNC Bank all report in the morning.

3. Earnings-magination: How well did General Electric put imagination to work in the first quarter? Plenty of news surrounding the conglomerate of late. Most recently, the company's board imposed new conditional targets on stock options granted to its CEO Jeff Immelt. But, with the kerfuffle over GE's 2010 taxes, its role in the trouble at Japan's Fukushima Daaichi plant, not to mention the completed sale of CNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal, shareholders will have plenty to sort through in the premarket GE earnings release. Wall Street is targeting 80 cents a share from GE.

RELATED: Top 10 most nuclear-dependent nations

4. And the Rest: Really, where else to turn? DuPont, McDonald's, Travelers, New York Times, Schlumberger, Philip Morris, United Health, United Continental … and a lot more. Suffice to say, it's a really, really long list of notable companies set to report quarterly numbers Thursday, concluding a market holiday shortened week. Strong earnings drove trading on Wednesday. Can they do the same heading into the weekend?

5. Bright Lights, Big City: C'mon, there's more to look forward to than just financial statements. Thursday night, the Knicks host their first playoff game in seven seasons … the first time in 14 years both the Knicks and Rangers have made the postseason! While a team that counts on Bill Walker and Jared Jeffries for crunch-time minutes won't be seeing too much of this year's NBA playoffs, the turn in fortune for the two marquee franchises has been a boon to Madison Square Garden. The stock has been on a tear since the fall.

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