Alcoa Inc. was traditionally the unofficial kickoff for earnings season, but its recent departure from the Dow Jones Industrials leaves many wondering if the company will still kick off earnings season?
“Well, it’s an interesting question, and it also comes into play, is the Dow as an index an anachronism in today’s world,” said Keith Bliss, senior vice president and director of sales & marketing at Cuttone & Co., Inc.
Nike, Inc. (NYSE: NKE), Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) were recently added as members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, replacing longtime member Alcoa Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE: HPQ) and Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC).
Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) is scheduled to report earnings after the closing bell on Tuesday, and Wall Street expects the aluminum producer to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of 9 cents per share on revenue of $5.7 billion, according to analysts polled by Reuters, compared with a loss of 13 cents a share on revenue of $5.8 billion a year earlier.
On Tuesday, shares of Alcoa fell 0.75 percent to $7.91 in afternoon trading.
“Alcoa is still the first S&P 500 company to kick off earnings, and actually the first Dow company to report earnings was Nike, but Nike is on a weird fiscal year so they actually reported earnings on Sept. 26,” Bliss said. “A little early to get into third quarter earnings season, particularly when the third quarter, on a calendar basis, is not over yet.”
Bliss pointed out that using Nike as the first Dow member to report is problematic because of its unusual fiscal year. Not only does the retailer report a few weeks before many other large companies, it also reports before the end of the calendar quarter is over. Because of Alcoa’s exit, JPMorgan is now the first Dow member on a calendar quarter scheduled to report earnings.
“So there’s two schools of thought. Some people are saying, ‘Well, we don’t care about the Dow, and Alcoa is still the unofficial kickoff of earnings season.’ But I think more people are still holding to tradition and they’ll look at JPMorgan on Friday as that first bellwether.”
JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) is slated to post earnings before the bell on Friday, and analysts forecast the investment bank to report fiscal third-quarter earnings of $1.27 per share on revenue of $24.2 billion, according to analysts polled by Reuters. This compares with a profit of $1.40 per share on revenue of $25.9 billion in the year-ago quarter.
“There’s a reason Alcoa’s not in the Dow Industrials anymore because the relevance of materials companies, at least to the U.S. economy, have waned over the years,” said Bliss. “Now, Alcoa will still be watched because they give us a nice benchmark for what’s going on globally inside of the global economy, particularly with China and some of the emerging economies.”
Because of the sluggishness of the global economy, Bliss said investors should focus on demand when analyzing Alcoa’s earnings report. Alcoa is the largest aluminum producer, and the element is used in various products globally in terms of construction and in products like automobiles.
“I want to see what they’re saying from a demand standpoint,” Bliss said. “The price of aluminum will go up and down based upon demand, but if Alcoa is not making money and they don’t think they’re going to have top line sales going forward that’s going to be a worrisome indicator for not only the third quarter, but the fourth quarter and beyond.”
Alcoa will hold its third-quarter 2013 conference call with shareholders on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 5 p.m. Eastern to discuss earnings results.