Alcoa officially kicked off earnings season Tuesday after the close. Alcoa reported a loss of $497 million in the first quarter. For some perspective into the current earnings environment, today’s chart compares S&P 500 earnings performance during the current economic recession (solid red line) to that of the last recession (dashed gold line) and the average recession from 1936-2006 (dashed blue line). As today’s chart illustrates, the current decline in earnings is several orders of magnitude greater than the average decline during a recession. The current decline is also more severe than what was the most severe earnings decline on record – the decline that began in 2001 (gold dashed line).