Banks to kick off another sloppy earnings season

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Goldman's top earnings plays

Forget Alcoa: Banks are the new barometer when it comes to the outlook for corporate profits.

Since its exit from the Dow Jones industrial average, the aluminum giant's report no longer is the unofficial earnings season kickoff, nor is the company considered a particularly reliable indicator of broader business trends.

Instead, it is the banks, particularly the Big Four—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup—that are looked to as bellwethers.

With that in mind, the second quarter is turning into one that Wall Street and investors would like to forget.

earnings on the whole are expected to decline 4.4 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the latest estimates from S&P Capital IQ.

In the first quarter, companies in the index posted a more than 3 percent gain, which doesn't sound like much on the surface but came amid expectations heading into the season that profits would decline more than 3 percent.

One of the saving graces was financials, which were the second-best performing of the S&P 500's 10 sectors with gains of more than 13 percent. This time around, though, the group is expected to play less of a leadership role. Projections now are for a 5 percent gain, which would place it fourth best.