The stock market has been in the doldrums lately, posting significant declines late last week after the Federal Reserve showed no signs of letting up on its tightening of monetary policy. Fears of an economic slowdown are escalating as some economists see a recession as increasingly likely, and the potential impact on corporate earnings could be a further headwind for Wall Street as 2023 approaches.

Nevertheless, investors are hopeful that they'll see signs of resilience in the markets. This week, corporate financial reports from Nike (NKE 0.16%) and FedEx (FDX -0.25%) could set the tone for the last two weeks of the year, and if the news is good, then bullish investors might get to celebrate a Santa Claus rally to finish 2022. Here's what to expect from Nike and FedEx when they report their latest financial numbers.

Nike raises the bar

Nike is scheduled to report its fiscal second-quarter financial results after the close of regular trading on Tuesday, Dec. 20. With the athletic footwear and apparel stock's price down by nearly a third since the beginning of 2022, investors in Nike are anxious to see the company's fortunes improve even in a tough macroeconomic environment.

Nike shareholders had a strong negative reaction to the company's fiscal first-quarter results that were released toward the end of September. Revenue moved higher by 4% year over year to $12.7 billion, overcoming substantial pressure from weak foreign currencies that caused international sales to translate into fewer U.S. dollars. However, gross margin fell by more than 2 full percentage points to 44.3%, and earnings of $0.93 per share were down 20% from the previous year's period. Rising inventory levels were particularly problematic, as they suggested continued struggles with supply chains and posed the threat of further promotional discounting to clear out products heading into the key holiday shopping season.

Indeed, Nike has already predicted that its upcoming quarterly results would suffer from tough conditions. CFO Matt Friend anticipated further gross margin erosion of as much as 4 percentage points as a result of aggressive discounts on out-of-season products.

Yet there have also been some more positive developments. Some measures of consumer spending activity have held up better than feared, despite worries about the economy. Moreover, China has been taking strides toward reopening its economy more fully after several COVID-19 outbreaks, and a rebound in that massive market could spur more extensive gains for the stock.

What Nike says Tuesday afternoon could spark big gains or losses for the markets as a whole. As a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the athletic shoe pioneer will get plenty of attention from investors.

Can FedEx deliver?

Also due out with a report late Tuesday is FedEx. The delivery specialist's fiscal second-quarter financial results will have big implications not just for its own business, but also for how strong broader shipping activity is across the entire consumer and business-to-business economy.

FedEx's stock took a big hit when the company pre-announced its expected fiscal first-quarter results in mid-September. FedEx said that earnings per share for the quarter would be about 33% below where investors had expected, and it withdrew guidance for the full fiscal year. Moreover, FedEx suggested that earnings could deteriorate even further in the fiscal second quarter, with the delivery giant's bottom line seeing profits of less than half what most of those following the stock were looking to see. Falling delivery volume globally was to blame, with macroeconomic trends getting steadily worse for the transportation stock as the quarter progressed.

Since then, FedEx has taken steps to control costs, including some layoffs in its freight division. Yet the real measure of success will come from whether customers are shipping packages again. With the timing of the fiscal second quarter ending on Nov. 30, FedEx will provide only an initial glimpse at how the holiday season is faring, but it will still be a useful data point.

Nike will provide interesting information about consumer spending, but FedEx's report is arguably more reflective of the entire economy. If both FedEx and Nike point to healthier levels of economic activity, then it could bring the Santa Claus rally so many stock investors have looked for.