For the past two weeks, global economic trends have been weighing on equities, with an Irish debt crisis, the possible raising of Chinese interest rates, and now a corruption scandal in India, markets have tried hard to keep their heads above water, but all to no avail. Most trading days have finished in the red as of late, helping to break already low levels of investor confidence. With international markets erupting with negative news and data, it can be easy to overlook events on the home front. Though earnings season for the third quarter of the year is over, there are still a few big name firms who have yet to report their most recent quarter's performance [see also Corruption Scandal Sinks India ETFs].

Today, before market open, medical technology manufacturer, Medtronic (NYSE: MDT), will release their earnings figures. Medtronic is the largest medical technology company in the world, making everything from basic insulin pumps, to complex heart valve replacements. The company is made up of six business units that focus on developing devices to treat major diseases such as heart failure, chronic pain, Parkinson's, and diabetes [see also Inflation-Fighting ETFs Back in Focus].

Analysts predict the company to bring in an EPS of $0.81 with revenues nearing the $4 billion mark. The firm has hit their revenue predictions for the past year, but their EPS came up short last quarter, disappointing investors. However, the company remains an interesting play in the medical field for two reasons. First, Medtronic finds itself in a relatively inelastic line of business, as many people put their lives in the hands of the devices the company produces, and cannot get by without them. However, unlike many of the big pharma firms, Medtronic isn’t facing a patent cliff which threatens to destroy its profitability for years to come. Recent political events could also benefit the company, as a gridlocked central government will likely be unable to enact further health care legislation -- such as the controversial Affordable Care Act which was signed earlier this year -- which gives the company a potentially brighter future [see also MLP Exposure: ETF or ETN?].

With this earnings report set for today, the iShares Dow Jones U.S. Medical Devices Index Fund (NYSE: IHI) should be active in trading. Measuring the performance of the U.S. medical equipment sector, this fund's top holdings feature the in-focus Medtronic (9.7%), Covidien (NYSE: COV) (7.3%), and Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO) (7%). Though recent weeks have been relatively unkind to the ETF -- it is down 1.9% over the past two weeks -- IHI is still up 3.8% on the year. If Medtronic's numbers come in solid, this ETF should have a strong day, but if the company falls short or lowers its guidance, IHI could be in for a rough trading session.

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