Alcoa Earnings Report Uneasy Start to Second Quarter (NYSE: AA)

Investors already have a cautious stance in the market amid growing fears about the world's biggest economies, and Monday's Alcoa (NYSE: AA) earnings report didn't help.

The aluminum producer, which always kicks off the earnings season, delivered more of a punt than a kickoff. The Dow bellwether reported an 81.3% drop in profits, as the global slowdown and production cuts weighed on profits.

Reporting after Monday's market close, Alcoa said income from continuing operations came in at $61 million, or 6 cents a share, on revenue just a hair under $6 billion. While significantly lower than the same period a year ago, the lackluster results still managed to beat Wall Street's tepid expectations (analysts were looking for 5 cents on revenue of $5.8 billion).

Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld said in a statement following the earnings release, "Alcoa maintained revenue strength amid solid liquidity by driving high profitability in our mid and downstream businesses and by reducing costs and improving performance in our upstream businesses."

Contributing to the profit decline was a global glut resulting from stagnant and slowing growth in many areas around the world, especially China.

Don't Expect Much from Second Quarter Earnings Season

The less-than-stellar report from Alcoa sets the stage for a dismal second-quarter earnings season.

Earnings red flags have been flying over all sectors as the Eurozone debt crisis and China's waning growth have already taken a toll on companies' profits. Meanwhile, things on the home front are no better with the looming fiscal cliff, unhealthy unemployment level, Obamacare ruling, Election 2012 and overall uncertainty dragging on the struggling U.S. economy.

And then there is the rising dollar which has spiked against the euro and other currencies, reducing profits U.S. companies earn from international sales.

Most analysts are forecasting S&P 500 companies to generate, on average, $25.21 in earnings per share for the second quarter. That is down from expectations of $25.89 at the beginning of the quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ.

"Earnings season will be very, very important, especially in terms of company guidance and how they are managing through this soft patch deceleration in China and Europe," Quincy Krosby market strategist at Prudential Financial, told USA Today.

Dismal returns for shareholders, as companies grapple with obstacles, have left many investors with one foot out the door. While investors may be willing to take on risk, it's the uncertainty that is unsettling.

Gregory Harrison, an earnings analyst with Thomson Reuters, said company announcements have been the worst since the fourth quarter of 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Upcoming Earnings Reports

While always closely watched and dissected, the real earnings test comes Friday when JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) reports.

Already beaten down and under scrutiny for its billion-dollar losses last quarter, JPMorgan has suffered more than a hit to its bottom line. Its once highly respected reputation has been seriously marred.

Industry analysts expect JPMorgan to reveal even more trading losses when they announce numbers Friday. While the company has maintained that it expects to be "solidly profitable" for the quarter, many have their doubts.

Also reporting Friday is Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC). What analysts will be looking for from Wells is not how much they earned, but which areas of business generated that revenue.

And, expected to be the most highly anticipated earnings release this quarter, and sure to be closely scrutinized are Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB) numbers. The social media giant will report its first quarterly results as a public company on July 26 after market close.

There hasn't been much to "like" about Facebook since its fiasco of an initial public offering. To date, shares are down some 17% since its IPO on May 18, as anxiety has grown that future earnings may not validate its current and projected valuation. The consensus estimate is for Facebook to earn 9 cents a share.

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