Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) earnings solidly beat analyst expectations to kick off the season, but don't get too excited.
Often regarded as a bellwether and tone setter for earnings season, AA's positive financial results are not going to permeate throughout the basic materials sector, which is likely to see trouble this quarter at the hands of falling commodity prices.
Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) stock rose 2.9% yesterday (Wednesday) ahead of today's fourth-quarter earnings report due after the bell.
Analysts are projecting earnings of $0.06 per share, down from $0.11 last quarter. At $5.54 billion, revenue estimates for AA are in line with the consensus estimate.
Alcoa used to be an earnings bellwether, although is no longer considered as one. Still, its earnings report is considered the official start to earnings season and is monitored for clues to global economic health.
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.
Investors will get a front row preview to the first quarter earnings season when bellwether Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) reports its results Tuesday after the close.
The aluminum producer is the first major U.S. company to release its first quarter earnings report, and these closely watched results often set the tone for the earnings season.
But investors shouldn't get their hopes up - expectations for first quarter earnings are low.
Earnings growth for the first three months of 2012 was lackluster at best - even though the stock market produced some of the best quarterly market gains since 1998. The Dow rose some 8%, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 12%, and the NASDAQ nearly climbed a whopping 19%.
If this latest batch of earnings comes with a plethora of nasty and unwelcome surprises, the recent market rally could be derailed.
Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital told the Associated Press, "It's supposed to be a very weak quarter, but Wall Street is freaking out because they don't understand why."