The earnings season, which starts with Alcoa Inc. reporting first quarter results Tuesday, is expected to be sluggish and could witness markets struggling to maintain gains made since the beginning of the year.

A clearer picture of the strength of the market will emerge on Thursday with Google's results, about which analysts have been increasingly bearish.

The prevalent view in the markets is that a high growth in earnings is not to be expected and that a forward push, if any, will be the result of sales and economic activities of the companies.

On a positive note, a flurry of encouraging economic data have helped improve the market sentiments this year. At the end of the first quarter, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 8 percent, at 13,212. Standard & Poor's 500 Index made a gain of 12 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index saw a climb of a highly impressive 19 percent.

However, expectations were dampened by last week's jobs data, which was rather disappointing. According to the Labor Department data, US non-farm payrolls added 120,000 jobs in March, which was much below the expectation of 203,000 jobs.

Investors have likely taken the jobs data as an indication that the economy was not yet fully on the path of recovery, which caused the Dow dropping 30.55 points, or 1.00 percent, to end at 12,929.59 on Monday. Nasdaq fell 33.42 points, or 1.08 percent, to close at 3,047.08. Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 15.88 points, or 1.14 percent, to 1,382.20.

Negative global factors could also affect the markets during a shaky earnings season. The projected decrease in China's growth rate, the rise in oil prices on account of a possible Middle East flare-up and the continuing debt crisis in the Eurozone could result in a market slowdown.

Earnings had climbed 19 percent in the first quarter of 2011. However, it is highly unlikely that such growth would be repeated this year. The expectation is that, of 10 sectors in the S&P 500 Index, only industrial, technology and consumer staples companies will show earnings growth. Marketing and telecommunications firms are expected to face the largest decline in earnings, according to a Reuters survey.

The earning figures do have an important impact on price movements in the market, with the stock moving in direct correlation to the earnings.