Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX) checks in as the new trading week kicks off. The payroll-processing giant is one of the better gauges of how things are going in Corporate America. If companies are hiring again, we'll see it in Paychex's performance. Sadly, the pros see a flat quarter on the bottom line.

ModusLink Global Solutions (Nasdaq: MLNK), Landec (Nasdaq: LNDC), and Standard Microsystems (Nasdaq: SMSC) are some of the companies stepping up with their quarterly financials. They aren't household names, but, well, the pool of earnings reports is dry this time of year. In a few weeks, quarterly financials will be raining from the sky.

The important takeaway for Tuesday is that analysts see all three companies posting better bottom-line results than they did a year earlier.

OMNOVA Solutions (NYSE: OMN) takes to the stage on Wednesday. OMNOVA relies on both the industrial and residential markets to keep itself hopping: It makes the coatings that protect everything from carpets to tires to roofing. The bad news is that Wall Street is targeting a profit of $0.23 a share -- flat with what it earned a year ago.

MSCI (Nasdaq: MSCI) and Lawson Software (Nasdaq: LWSN) report on Thursday.

Investment-analytics specialist MSCI is on a roll. The specialist in equity-indexing tools blasted past analysts' profit targets three months ago. And after beating bottom-line expectations in five of the past six quarters, the odds are in MSCI's favor to surpass the $0.35 a share that analysts are banking on. Enterprise-software publisher Lawson, meanwhile, has consistently met or exceeded quarterly profit estimates for a few years now.

It's quiet on the earnings front Friday, so let's turn our attention instead to both the beginning of a new month and the final quarter of 2010.

If history is any kind of teacher, portfolio managers were window dressing their holdings yesterday to make sure that their third-quarter statements make them look good. That won't fool the savvy investors who will look through a basket of stocks and judge a mutual fund based on its actual performance.

It's been an interesting and volatile year in the market. Why should the fourth and final quarter be any different?

Until next week, I remain,

Rick Munarriz

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz recommends windshield wiper fluid when trying to look forward. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He owns no shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.