Updated from 8:59 a.m. EDT

(At 4 p.m. EDT)

Earnings Fallout Coming Wednesday

The top headline on Wednesday will surely be the Securities and Exchange Commission's decision on exactly what to do with the uptick rule. As the meeting is not scheduled to start until 10 a.m. EDT, traders will likely spend much of the morning focusing on earnings.

Unfortunately, there's nothing sexy about the earnings reports due out tonight or tomorrow morning. Alcoa ( AA), Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY) and Ruby Tuesday ( RT) are among the few companies reporting after Tuesday's closing bell.

Wednesday's premarket session will bring the latest quarterly reports from Constellation Brands ( STZ) and Family Dollar ( FDO). Like I said, there's nothing really all that exciting.

The economic calendar won't do much to invigorate traders either. At 2 p.m. EDT, the Federal Reserve will offer up the minutes from its two-day meeting in March. Aside from that and the weekly oil inventory numbers, the February read on wholesale inventories, due at 10 a.m. EDT, will be the only other report delivered to investors.

To be honest, the rest of the week is a real yawner, courtesy of the Good Friday holiday. Better get your rest, though. Next week marks the start of the earnings rush, when heavyweights like Goldman Sachs ( GS), Intel ( INTC), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) and Citigroup ( C) are set to report.

A Look Back at Tuesday

The sporting activities industry was among the worst laggards of Tuesday's down market, pressured by a 23.8% drop in International Speedway ( ISCA). The motorsports promoted saw shares plummet Tuesday after cutting its full-year adjusted profit and revenue forecast due to the weakening economy.

Other names in the space traded lower Tuesday in sympathy. Speedway Motorsports ( TRK) slid 7.3% and Dover Motorsports ( DVD) was down 2.9%.

Casino operators were also among the worst performers of Tuesday session following a report by the Nevada Gaming Control board that said casino revenue fell 18.1% in February, the 14th straight month of declines. MGM Mirage ( MGM) tumbled 19.5%, Las Vegas Sands ( LVS) dropped 18.8% and Wynn Resorts ( WYNN) finished down by 14.4%.

On the other hand, health care providers were among the best performers yet again. After a 6.8% gain on Monday, UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) added another 6.9% on Tuesday. Humana ( HUM), Aetna ( AET) and Coventry Health Care ( CVH) added 2.8% or more on the day.

Gripe of the Day

Personally, I own virtually every Beatles album in the compact disc format, so I really don't care if their entire catalog ever makes its way onto Apple's ( AAPL) iTunes store.

Still, I'm puzzled by today's news release from EMI Music and the Beatles' own company, Apple Corps, that the entire Beatles discography will be digitally re-mastered and released on CD on Sept. 9, the same day game developer Harmonix and publisher Electronic Arts ( ERTS) are set to deliver the Beatles: Rock Band video game title.

One of the final lines of the press release today said that "Discussions regarding the digital distribution of the catalogue will continue," although that's nothing new. In the last few years, every time Steve Jobs or another Apple executive takes the stage, fans clamoring to hear a mention of the Beatles have ultimately come away disappointed.

Coincidentally or not, EMI and Apple Corps' announcement came on the same day Apple made price changes effective in the iTunes store. Instead of pricing every digital MP3 at 99 cents, Apple has introduced a three-tiered model where labels can charge 69 cents, 99 cents or $1.29 depending on the song.

For a band that was ahead of its time, it's hard to believe the Beatles are so far behind the curve on digital distribution. If they really wanted to fleece fans that have already bought all their CDs before, wouldn't they be better served putting it on iTunes at the highest-priced tier?

(At 7:45 a.m. EDT)

Market Nervous Ahead of Earnings

U.S. stock futures are dropping early on apparent fears over what the first-quarter earnings season will hold. Alcoa's ( AA) report, due after the closing bell, marks the unofficial start of the earnings torrent. On average, analysts expect the company to record a loss of 56 cents a share on revenue of $4.07 billion.

While Alcoa has beaten Wall Street's forecast for sales in five out of the last six quarters, it has fallen short of the earnings per share target four out of the last six times. Pessimism is already working its way into Alcoa shares, as the stock was down nearly 3% in premarket trading.

Should investors be scared over what the rest of the first-quarter earnings reports will say? Probably. By all accounts, the last three months were tough for companies to endure. But it's one thing to say it and another to look at the hard numbers.

According to Thomson Reuters, the first-quarter earnings growth rate should fall to negative 36.6% from the previous estimate of negative 12.5% from the first day of 2009. Whether its down 12.5% or worse, a negative growth rate will mark the first time the S&P 500 has recorded seven straight quarters of negative growth since Thomson Reuters began tracking the data in 1998.

However, if you're looking for a bright spot, changes to mark-to-market accounting rules could be a boon for financial companies. Although the rule changes don't take effect until the second quarter, banks are permitted to implement the accounting changes for the first quarter.

Robert Willens, a former managing director at Lehman Brothers who runs his own tax and accounting advisory firm in New York, told TheStreet.com last week that capital levels could improve by more than 20% at banks and that earnings could actually grow somewhere between 7% to 8%. It may not be the complete fix banks need, but every little bit helps.

Banks Continue to Drop

Speaking of banks, the sector is also to blame for Tuesday's weak start as negative momentum in financial stocks looks to carry over into Tuesday's session. On Monday, a bearish report from Calyon Securities analyst Mike Mayo, who jumped to the firm recently from Deutsche Bank, pressured the financial sector. Mayo initiated coverage of 11 different bank stocks with either an underperform or sell rating.

After finishing lower Monday, Citigroup ( C) was off nearly 5% in the premarket session, Wells Fargo ( WFC) shed 4.1%, Bank of America ( BAC) was slipping 3.7% and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) was down 1.6%.

Uptick Rule in Focus

A reinstitution of some form of the uptick rule could be a major catalyst during tomorrow's session as the Securities and Exchange Commission, but market observers were already jumping on comments from Commission Chair Mary Schapiro.

"We are going to put forward about four different proposals, and one of them does include the original," Schapiro said Monday in an address to a conference organized by the Council of Institutional Investors. In addition to the original uptick rule, Schapiro said other proposals include a bid test and a circuit breaker.

The uptick rule, instituted by the SEC in 1938 following the Great Depression, said that the short selling of stocks could be done only after the share price "ticked" higher above the prior sale. The SEC made the controversial decision to eliminate the uptick rule in June 2007 after its analysis showed it did little to prevent the manipulation of shares prices given the proliferation of electronic trading.

Applied Materials Pressuring Tech

Shares of Applied Materials ( AMAT) were dropping nearly 5% in the premarket session after the chipmaker said a $1.9 billion solar-power contract was slashed to only $250 million.

Other chipmakers were trading lower in sympathy. Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD) was off 2.3%, Intel ( INTC) was down 2% in early trading, and STMicroelectronics ( STM) was slipping nearly 1%.

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