Amended: corrects 19th paragraph to say Chevron is releasing first quarter update and not results on April 9.

After living through a nightmare in the fourth quarter, the companies that contour the S&P 500 are now bracing to face yet another horrendous quarter, which will kick-start when Alcoa Inc. (AA) officially pioneers the earnings season after market-close on April 7.

However, industry experts project a smaller 36% decline in first-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies, compared to a 67% slide in the fourth quarter of 2008, amid recessionary pressures.

Many companies have drastically cut or withdrawn guidance, in view of the prevalent economic uncertainties. Alcoa, the litmus test for the season, has said its first-quarter results would continue to be callously encroached by the global meltdown that has adversely affected pricing and demand for aluminum, alumina and aluminum products.

The company expects to incur a net loss for the quarter ended March 31, but sees benefit from a strong dollar. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to report a loss of $0.52 per share on revenues of $4.08 billion for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items. In the year-ago period, the company posted earnings of $0.37 per share on revenues of $7.38 billion.

Other prime players to tag along with the New York-based aluminium giant in releasing earnings include Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY), Pier 1 Imports Inc. (PIR) and Mosaic Co. (MOS).

Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond is set to publish fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, after market close. While announcing third quarter results, the company said it expects earnings to range between $0.40 and $0.46 per share for the fourth quarter and $1.50 - $1.56 per share for the full year. Wall Street analysts have a consensus earnings estimate of $0.44 per share on revenues of $1.92 billion for the quarter, and $1.53 per share for the full year.

Earlier, the company had projected fiscal year earnings per share to decline in a low double-digit percentage to mid teens percentage from the $2.10 per share reported in the previous year. The new guidance implies earnings per share to decline by 25% to nearly 29%, worse than the originally expected drop.

Furniture and home accessories retailer Pier 1 Imports Inc. is scheduled to announce fourth-quarter results before market opens on April 7. Recently, the company pre-released unaudited preliminary results for the fourth quarter ended February 28, 2009, reporting a net loss of $29 million for the fourth quarter, compared to a profit of $14 million for the same period last year. Total sales for the quarter declined to $389 million from $437 million in the previous year. Comparable store sales declined 9.7%. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.32 per share on revenues of $269.23 million.

Phosphate and potash crop nutrients maker Mosaic Co. is lined up to harvest third-quarter results on April 7, with analysts expecting earnings of $0.24 per share on revenues of $1.64 billion for the quarter.

Other companies reporting Tuesday include Landec Corp. (LNDC), Mitcham Industries Inc. (MIND), Resources Connection Inc. (RECN), and Ruby Tuesday Inc. (RT).

April 8

Family Dollar Stores Inc. (FDO), which was the best performer in the S&P 500 index in 2008, will report second-quarter results before market opens on April 8. The retailer is benefiting from the recession as cost-conscious consumers walk in through its doors to stretch a dollar.

Early March, the company hiked its earnings forecast to a range of $0.59 - $0.61 per share for the second quarter, from the prior guidance range of $0.48 - $0.52 per share. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to earn $0.60 per share on revenues of $1.98 billion. Family Dollar's total and same-store sales for the second quarter advanced 8.7% and 6.4%, respectively, helped by double-digit sales growth of consumable merchandise.

Specialty coatings and sealants maker RPM International Inc. (RPM) is due to announce third-quarter financial results before market opens on April 8. While announcing second-quarter results, the company cautioned that it is likely to incur a loss in the third quarter, because of seasonality, continuing revenue declines, and employee severance costs resulting from adjustments in certain RPM businesses to cope with the exacerbating business environment. Wall Street analysts expect the company to post a loss of $0.05 per share on revenues of $707.43 million for the quarter.

RPM generates 65% of revenues in industrial markets and 35% in consumer markets. The company has expanded its presence outside of its home market in North America and international sales now account for 26% of total revenues.

As the global downtrend coerced more out-of-work professionals cocooning in their own homes, demand for cable services - television and Internet connection - flourished. Shaw Communications Inc.'s (SJR) second quarter basic cable subscribers increased 4,273 to 2.27 million, while Digital and Internet customers grew by 106,489 to 1.07 and 26,130 to 1.62 million, respectively. Digital Phone lines were up 50,848 to 719,376 and DTH customers increased 3,657 to 896,633.

Chief Executive Officer and Vice Chair Jim Shaw said, Our subscriber results for the quarter were strong, demonstrating the resilience of our business and strength of our strategy in the face of weaker economic conditions.

Shaw Communications is likely to report second-quarter results at 8:30am ET on April 8. Analysts are projecting earnings of $0.24 per share for the second quarter. Most recently, the company said it remains on track to generate free cash flow of at least $500 million during the fiscal year.

Construction and industrial services provider Shaw Group Inc. (SGR) is set to announce financial results for second quarter at 4:00 pm ET on April 8. Wall Street analysts have a consensus earnings estimate of $0.61 per share on revenues of $1.75 billion for the quarter.

April 9

The second largest U.S. oil company Chevron Corp. (CVX) is slated to release first-quarter update after market close on April 9. Analysts expect the company to report earnings of $0.97 per share on revenues of $23.35 billion for the quarter.

Chevron posted a marginal growth in fourth-quarter profit, primarily due to a $600 million gain from an upstream asset-exchange transaction and a $478 million gain from foreign currency. Upstream earnings were negatively impacted by the sharp decline in oil prices, but overall results benefited from downstream performance.

Penford Corp. (PENX), a producer of specialty carbohydrate-based starches used in food, paper and other industries, is slated to report second-quarter results on April 9. Wall Street analysts expect the company to report a loss of $0.12 per share on revenues of $90.48 million for the quarter.

Recently, Auto-parts retailer Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack (PBY) reported its preliminary results and said it expects a loss for its fourth quarter and full year, which is scheduled to be released on April 9.

Pep Boys expects fourth quarter loss to range between $0.59 and $0.69 per share, with sales estimated at $466 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the company to report a loss of $0.26 per share on revenues of $463.53 million for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

The company, which has operations in 35 states and Puerto Rico, said sales declined during the holiday season. About $4 million in asset impairments and other charges also impacted fourth-quarter results. For the full year, loss per share is estimated to be in the range of $0.53 - $0.63, with sales of about $1.93 billion.

Stay tuned to RTTNews to catch a glimpse of the race at the financial Armageddon.

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