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Brace for the Worst Earning Season Since 2009

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Low interest rates and volatile markets are set to weigh on financial sector profits.Roy Scott — Getty Images/Ikon Images

Earnings season begins today, with Alcoa reporting after the market close. Analysts are bracing for the biggest overall declines in earnings since the great recession. Corporate earnings have been falling since the second quarter of last year, and Morgan Stanley warned clients Sunday that the earnings recession is not over.

Energy companies led the plunge last year, but financials are taking the biggest hit this year. The big banks will report earnings Wednesday (JP Morgan), Thursday (Wells Fargo and Bank of America), and Friday (Citigroup.)

In the past, recessions in corporate earnings have been accompanied by economic recessions. The one exception in the last six earnings cycles was 1998, during the Asian financial crisis, when earnings fell but the economy kept growing. Most economists predict this year will be another exception, but the earnings shortfall is a sign of the weak underpinnings of those economic projections. Morgan Stanley puts the risk of recession at 30% this year.

That will be a talking point later today when President Obama meets with Fed Chair Yellen to discuss the state of the economy. This is only their second private meeting since she became Fed chair. I’d recommend they do it more often.