Data: S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Companies are about to blast out a blizzard of quarterly profit and sales numbers over the next few weeks, as the carnival of Q4 corporate results kicks off.

Driving the news: Large banks will open the floodgates, issuing reports early Friday that mark the unofficial start of earnings season on Wall Street.

Why it matters: Earnings reports tell investors, analysts and economists how the economy translates into sales and profits for corporations. They also make stocks move — sometimes a lot.

The big picture: So far, corporate America has had a very good pandemic.

Though profits initially took a hit in 2020, they rebounded to what was almost certainly record highs last year. (We won't know for sure until the new batch of numbers, which cover the last three months of 2021, are in.)

State of play: You'll sometimes hear executives bellyaching about recent inflation trends such as rising raw material prices, and increasing wages, arguing that they could cut into profits.

It is true those input costs keep rising. A key gauge of wholesale prices — out Thursday — showed them up nearly 10% as of November, compared to the previous year.

The bottom line: Large companies have had no problem passing those costs along to consumers, which is why profit margins — that is, profits as a share of sales — are also at record highs.

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