Here's a little trivia for you: Fifty-nine years ago, the New York Stock Exchange would have been closed today.
Until 1953, Wall Street observed Lincoln's birthday, Veterans Day, and, yes, Columbus Day. What happened to render the last unfit for celebration is anybody's guess, but the market certainly isn't in a celebratory mood today. At roughly halfway through the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) is down by 33 points, or 0.24%.
Why the Dow's down
The culprit for the day's dismal start can be traced to downgraded growth estimates for Asia's economies.
Earlier today, the World Bank cut its growth forecasts for East Asia, saying that "Economic growth in the [region] may slow down by a full percentage point from 8.2% in 2011 to 7.2% this year, before recovering to 7.6% in 2013."
More specifically, the report notes that "weak exports and lower investment growth will cut down China's GDP growth from 9.3% in 2011 to 7.7% this year" before rebounding to 8.1% in 2012 "as the impact of stimulus measures kicks in, supported further by an uptick in global trade."
Beyond this data, investors remain focused on earnings season. Economic bellwether Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) kicks things off tomorrow. Analysts expect the aluminum giant to report a breakeven quarter, down from a $0.15-per-share profit in the third quarter of 2011.
According to my friend Pradip Sigdyal at CNBC: "In the last 12 years, when the company beat third-quarter estimates by more than 1%, the Dow finished the fourth quarter positive 100% of the time, with an average gain of 7%." Alternatively, "when Alcoa missed estimates by 1% or more, the Dow ended the fourth-quarter positive [only] 55% of the time, with an average gain of 2.5%."
Alcoa is currently the best-performing stock in the Dow, up more than 1.2% in intraday trading.
Foolish bottom line
Regardless of Alcoa's results, many analysts are expecting a disappointing third-quarter earnings season -- my colleague Alex Dumortier went so far as to call it an "earnings recession." Over the last couple of months, blue chip companies like FedEx (NYSE: FDX ) , Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) have all issued downbeat earnings forecasts, citing weakness in Europe and China and the continuing economic malaise here at home.
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