The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading 149 points higher, or 0.92%, by midafternoon after Alcoa unofficially kicked off earnings season yesterday after market close. Despite the company posting a first-quarter loss of $178 million, compared to a $149 million profit for the corresponding period last year, shares are up more than 3% today. One-time items from a production capacity reduction contributed to the loss, and the adjusted earnings per share beat Wall Street estimates. According to Thomson Reuters, S&P 500 companies' first-quarter earnings are projected to have risen only 1% from a year ago, far below initial estimates.

With earnings season under way, here are some companies making headlines.

Inside the Dow, General Electric (NYSE:GE) is making news as it continues to refocus its business on stronger industrial and energy portfolios. When it comes to energy, GE recently has invested in additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure. As the U.S. economy continues to invest in more natural gas products, such as locomotives, tractor-trailers, and drilling rigs, the demand for natural gas networks and pipelines should grow substantially. General Electric has more than $3 billion invested in 43,500 miles of pipeline, as well as the largest U.S. liquefied natural gas export facility and other storage sites, according to FuelFix.

"There's a lot of need for expansion capital, new pipeline in the ground to tap into and fully exploit the various shale regions," Jim Burgoyne, managing director of GE's natural resources group, told FuelFix. "It's fertile ground because there is so much development going on."

Investors continue to cheer GE's recent moves to expand its industrial and energy businesses, and the company is quickly showing up on many investor watchlists as its turnaround unfolds.

GM CEO Mary Barra in front of Senate subcommittee. Source: General Motors.

Outside of the Dow, General Motors' (NYSE:GM) ignition-switch fiasco continues to make major headlines. America's largest automaker's recall of nearly 2.6 million vehicles linked to at least 13 deaths will cost the company no less than $750 million in the first quarter. That's likely just scratching the surface of the total cost to be felt by the automaker, as damage to its sales and brand image is far from over.

To make General Motors' headache even worse today, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas lowered his earnings outlook for the company's first quarter and dropped his price target on GM's stock to $33 from $49. Also, in barely a slap on the wrist, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hit GM with a fine of $7,000 per day over its responses to a 107-question query the agency filed with the company last month, according to Automotive News

Meanwhile, competitors in the automotive industry are taking advantage of General Motors' massive recall by scheduling recalls of their own, knowing the media spotlight will remain focused on GM.

Toyota Motor announced a 6.39 million vehicle worldwide recall today, with 2.34 million of those vehicles in North America. The overall recall figure actually covers five separate technical issues ranging from faulty airbags to defective windshield wipers. Chrysler also recently announced a worldwide recall of nearly 870,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos, while Ford recalled nearly 435,000 SUVs and cars to fix rusty frame parts or faulty seats.