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The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) will have no shortage of earnings excitement this week, as eight of its 30 components expect to release quarterly reports between now and Thursday night. Yet while establishing a track record of past growth and encouraging future prospects is important for every company, two Dow members have more to prove to their investors than usual. Earnings rollouts this week will give Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) opportunities to show that they're getting back on track with their long-term strategies.

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Microsoft's Satya Nadella. Source: Microsoft.

In line with many of its big-name tech peers' recent experiences, Microsoft investors expect both revenue and net income to fall substantially from year-ago levels when the company reports its results on Thursday. Microsoft faces the same challenges that have troubled it for years, with its attempts to catch up on the mobile-device front reflecting concerns about how much longer the software giant can reap the benefits of its PC dominance. The big difference, though, is new CEO Satya Nadella, who has wasted no time in putting his mark on the future direction of the company. Nadella's influence won't necessarily have immediate results on Microsoft's financial performance, but shareholders are already applauding the renewed sense of purpose and forward momentum in the company, and that bodes well for its future prospects.

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Meanwhile, McDonald's has had a lot of trouble keeping its own momentum going, as struggling same-store sales results point to the high level of competition in the fast-food industry domestically, as well as the difficulties in key emerging markets. Taco Bell's new breakfast offerings have gotten a lot of attention lately, but the Mexican chain is far from the only restaurant seeking to steal some of McDonald's breakfast-customer base. To maximize its profit potential, McDonald's has to figure out how to keep satisfying its core value-driven customers while also catering to the upper-end clientele that would be most likely to buy higher-margin premium breakfast offerings. Threading that needle and keeping a focus on high-growth areas of the world is a tall order, but McDonald's must deliver in order to keep its position atop the fast-food industry.

Watching earnings is key for shareholders of any company, but Microsoft and McDonald's have a lot riding on this quarter's reports. If they do well, their shares could easily build on recent gains and pull the entire Dow Jones Industrials up with them.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.