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."