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Alcoa (NYSE:AA) kicked off this quarter's earnings season when it reported results for the fourth quarter of 2007. The traditional season lasts until Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) reports its results on 2/19, with most S&P 500 companies reporting before then.

Earnings expectations for the S&P 500 peaked on August 17th, 2007 when analysts realized that subprime writedowns would continue beyond the third quarter. Since then year-over-year growth expectations have been revised down 20%, with a massive 68% downwards revision in financials. The two charts below highlight the progression of those revisions.

Some other highlights during the period were consumer discretionary (revised down 14%), materials (revised down 7%) and energy (revised up 6%). With so much uncertainty surrounding the earnings expectations, we dug deeper into the more comprehensive Russell 3000 index to see not only how many companies report on any given day, but also when the large companies report.

click to enlarge

As shown, by 1/31 most S&P 500 names will have reported, although a significant number of smaller stocks will report throughout the month of February.

The chart below shows that the largest financial companies will report on 1/16 and 1/22, but the majority of companies report on 1/23.

Given such dramatic estimate revisions, there is the possibility of continued volatility through earnings season, especially as the market digests reports on the more active days.