Earnings season is always ushered in by the results of Alcoa – which reported last night – and then picks up steam, ending in a crescendo of conference calls four or so weeks later.  We have had a nice bounce off the lows so it will be interesting to see not simply what companies report, but what they see in the quarters ahead. 

My guess is that inventory levels have been worked down a fair bit given the dramatic slowdown of the last few months.  The expectation of rebuilding may allow some room for management teams to be more cautiously optimistic this go around.

In addition to the earnings season, same store sales results for many companies will be released tomorrow.  Decent results will likely be characterized as those that aren’t as bad as feared or whose pace of deceleration has slowed.  If the pace of declines has slowed, it will mark the third consecutive month of improvement, or perhaps better put, “less bad” results.

On an unrelated note, it looks as though many life insurance companies will be eligible to receive TARP funds, which angers me a bit.  As I noted in our recent update, Something for Nothing, Free Lunches and Fool’s Gold, the variable annuities that may have put many of these companies in trouble in the first place are likely products that should never have been sold in the first place.  Don’t the words stock market and guarantee bother anyone else out there?

Check out the R Section of Monday’s Wall Street Journal for more.