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Here Comes Alcoa...And a Bleak Earnings Season

Actually, several companies have already reported. In fact, when you think about it, earnings reports are constantly rolling out here or there. Because most companies follow a quarterly calendar, however, the number booms in the month after a quarter's end. For organizational purposes, you've got to start somewhere, and so the business journalism world goes with Alcoa (it's at the beginning of the alphabet after all).

Peter Dazeley | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

You can expect a downcast report from the company. As our resident stock guru Jim Cramer recently pointed out, Alcoa has some supply glut issues to deal with, thanks to China.

Overall the experts are saying we can expect a bad-to-flat earnings season all around. Given debt problems in Europe, growth slowing in Asia, and the pickup in commodity and energy prices, that shouldn't be much of a surprise.

Typically, when a company's bottom line suffers, it cuts its way to a profit. But given all the chopping companies did in response to the Great Recession, there isn't much left to cut these days — at least on a wide scale. Of course, there are some individual exceptions (like Yahoo and Sony).

Maybe that will end up being the somewhat silver lining in this bleak earnings outlook: No more cutting, just widespread hunkering down. Or, dare we hope, some moves by certain outfits to roll the dice, invest in operations and people, and grow their way to profits?

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Allen Wastler is managing editor of CNBC.com. Follow him on Twitter @AWastler. You can catch his commentary on CNBC Radio. And check out his fiction.