The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) bounced back a healthy 113 points as of 12:30 p.m. EDT after a big smackdown yesterday. It got some help from a rise in the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index, which added to the belief that the economy should recover later in the year.

While interest rate policy and macroeconomic conditions will make a huge impact on the long-range trajectory of the market, earnings will also have their say. We're just about to start another earnings season, and Nike (NYSE:NKE) will start things off with its fiscal third-quarter report this afternoon. As one of the higher-growth stocks in the Dow, Nike's results could have a big impact on whether the bull market continues for a sixth straight year or gives way to a bigger correction than we've seen in years.

Nike will issue its earnings release at about 4:15 p.m. EDT. The company will hold a conference call at 5 p.m. EDT to discuss the release and its financial results more broadly.

Investors expect somewhat mixed results from Nike, with revenue set to rise substantially but earnings per share to drop somewhat. Nevertheless, investors fully believe that this quarter's potential decline in earnings will be a short-term phenomenon, with solid growth seen for the full year.

So far, Nike has done an admirable job of earning its place in the Dow Jones Industrials since joining last fall. The company has fended off challenges from key rivals, avoiding the painful miscues that have hurt up-and-coming yoga-retail specialist lululemon athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) all year and retaining its stranglehold over Under Armour (NYSE:UAA), Adidas, and other competitors at the top end of the endorsement spectrum. That dominance has given Nike a big marketing edge, which in turn drives profit margins that are an essential part of Nike's long-term potential.

What could really move Nike is its focus this year on soccer. With a major sponsorship of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Nike's exposure among soccer players and fans will never be higher. If the company can capitalize on that opportunity, it could deal Adidas a particularly tough blow, given the German multinational's traditional strength in soccer footwear. With the popularity of the sport worldwide, carryover interest could raise interest in Nike's other products as well.

Nike will move the Dow tomorrow not just because of its own particular read on the economy but also as a key measure of whether investors still favor solid growth stocks. As the bull market ages, there might come a time when growth gives way to more defensive plays. For now, though, Nike is performing strongly and could continue to see gains on a solid report.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.