When Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) reports third quarter numbers after the close Tuesday, the Dow bellwether will unofficially kick-off the final earnings season of 2012, giving U.S. stocks a chance to continue their rally.
Numbers from Alcoa, which supplies the global economy with a plethora of materials used for everything from soda cans to airplane parts, are closely watched. A dismal report from the company is predicted to set the stage for rather glum spate of third quarter reports.
The world's largest aluminum maker is expected to report a profit of a penny a share, compared to 15 cents a share earned in the same quarter a year ago. Sales are expected to fall 14% to $5.6 billon.
A strong focus will be on its overseas growth. China's troubling slowing growth coupled with the Eurozone's recession is expected to be a notable drag on international revenue for global firms like Alcoa and Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM), which also reports Tuesday after the bell.
"Any evidence they're expecting improvement globally would be good," Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott told MarketWatch.
Scores of economists have increasingly warned that earnings for the second to last quarter of 2012 will be weak at best. The big question is just how weak, and how big an impact the glum results will have on markets through the end of 2012.
Here's what to expect from third-quarter earnings reports.