Will Earnings Season Cure the Dow's Hangover?

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After the government reported underwhelming jobs numbers Friday, the market took a predictable dip yesterday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) dropping 130 points, or 1%, to its lowest level in nearly a month. Investors reacted to the news by fleeing out of stocks and into treasuries, with yields on the 10-Year T-Note (INDEX: ^TNX) declining more than 6%. With Tuesday marking the beginning of the quarterly earnings season, let's take a look and see whether the Dow can make back any of those losses.

Analysts expect earnings growth of just 1% this quarter from the S&P 500, citing concerns such as Europe's debt crisis, China's slowing economy, and an end to some of the stopgap measures such as cost-cutting and laying off workers that boosted bottom lines after the recession. The low expectations could offer additional upside potential if the market surprises.

Aluminum maker Alcoa (NYS: AA) is the first Dow component to report, with its earnings release set for after market close today. Analysts are expecting a $0.04 EPS loss for the manufacturer, which would follow a $0.03 loss in the previous quarter. Revenue is also expected to drop 3.1% to $5.77 billion. An oversupply in the market seems to be a major factor in the low expectations, and the company said last week it will cut production of alumina, a key ingredient in aluminum, by 2%. Earlier, Alcoa announced the closing of several high-cost smelters. Restructuring costs put a dent in last quarter's earnings and should do the same this time around, but with aluminum demand vastly outpacing the global economy, any positive signs from management could send the stock up.


Two other earnings announcements to look for this week will come from Google (NAS: GOOG) , which reports on Thursday, and JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) , whose numbers will come out Friday morning. Analysts are eyeing earnings of $9.64 per share for the search king, a 19% improvement from last year's Q1 number. My colleague Rick Munarriz thinks earnings could come in closer to $10, arguing that analysts overreacted to last quarter's miss and that the tech juggernaut has never missed earnings expectations twice in a row.

Investors are looking for a $1.15 in earnings per share from JPMorgan Chase. The banking sector soared in the past three months, and JPMorgan Chase rode the wave to a 20% gain over the past three months. A dividend increase and passage of the Federal Reserve's stress test helped propel the stock over the past quarter. Its fourth-quarter EPS came in at $0.90, while earnings for the first-quarter of 2011 were $1.28. Fellow financial titan Wells Fargo also reports Friday morning, with estimates at $0.72 a share. Expect the rest of the financial sector to move on those reports.

Finally, only one official report is on the docket for Tuesday: The Census Bureau reports wholesale trade data, including sales and inventories, for February. Since the numbers are delayed a month and don't address the retail level, they rarely elicit a market response, though a surprising report can cause stocks to move. Wholesale inventories rose 0.4% in January, and analysts are expecting that figure to tick up to 0.5% for February.

Stay focused
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorJeremy Bowmanowns shares of Google but holds no other positions in the companies in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase. The Fool owns shares of and has created a covered strangle position in Wells Fargo .Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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