Ready or Not It’s Earnings Season, Alcoa Preview

Investors are gearing up for earnings season, which kicks off Thursday after the bell.

Of course every earnings season is critical for investors but this one may be all the more important considering the S&P surged above 1150 recently – a level of strong resistance – and the Dow is currently flirting with 11,000. Earnings season will likely confirm or deny the recent gains.

And, as it does every quarter, earnings season starts with Alcoa .

What should you expect?

The aluminum giant is expected to post a modest third-quarter profit. On average, analysts are forecasting third-quarter earnings of 5 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, up 1 cent from a year earlier.

Sounds bullish but what’s more likely to move shares is what Alcoa has to say about aluminum prices and their broader forecast for 2011 - as the company grapples with a tenuous economic recovery in the U.S. and slowing growth in China.

Although Alcoa shares have jumped more than 20 percent from their recent August low, they are still down more than 23 percent year-to-date making this stock one of the worst performers in the Dow.

Should you buy the weakness or run for the hills?

I think Alcoa could shine going into the fourth quarter, says Tim Seymour. Q3 aluminum prices were up and alunimum has lagged. I think the outlook could be positive.

Deutsche just put Alcoa on their sell list, counters Guy Adami. And there’s a huge amount of short interest in this stock. If it pops on earnings I’d sell.

I’m not interested in Alcoa at all because China has an awful lot of aluminum production already, adds Brian Kelly.

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