Earnings: Looking for an Omen

Big losses are expected in financials, but first-quarter earnings in other sectors are a key test of how long the gloom will last

Major League Baseball may have ditched the first week of April as the time to start its season, but the stock market will have its own "Opening Day" on Apr. 7 when Wall Street's traditional leadoff hitter, Alcoa (AA), releases first-quarter results. Alas, the players posting results for the period may have a poor batting average: Investors should expect a big drop in profits for U.S. companies in the first quarter, thanks to the credit crunch and a slowing economy.

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