We're about to find out just how bad corporate America's last 3 months really were

Earnings season is upon us, and it is not expected to be pretty.

After the closing bell on Wednesday, aluminium giant Alcoa will report second-quarter earnings, unofficially kicking off reporting season.

In the first quarter, S&P 500 earnings grew 1.9% and revenues fell 3.2% year-over-year, according to RBC Capital Markets’ scorecard.

And so, the earnings recession that some analysts predicted failed to materialise. But that doesn’t mean the second quarter is expected to be good.

According to Factset, analysts are not expecting earnings growth until Q4 2015, and no revenue growth until Q1 2016. And ahead of second quarter earnings season, expectations are that overall S&P 500 earnings will actually be lower than they were in the first quarter.

To get you ready for the season, here are 6 things to look out for.

Once again, earnings expectations have plunged into the season.

Morgan Stanley analysts say forecasts are too low, meaning that results will 'show modest upside.'

Analysts are expecting earnings per share (EPS) growth of -3.8% -- now the lowest estimate of the year, according to Barclays. The energy, consumer staple and industrials sectors are expected to report falling EPS, but health care, financials and consumer discretionary will be the highest.

Barclays noted that industrials have seen the biggest downward revisions due to the economic slowdown in Q1. And, analysts have raised energy earnings estimates the most because of the rebound in oil prices.

But the energy sector is not out of the woods yet.

The fallout from the oil crash is not over, and earnings for the energy sector are projected to fall 63% year-over-year according to RBC Capital.

The sector could drag down S&P 500 growth by as much as 8%, they estimate.

The dollar will continue to be a big theme.

The strong dollar has been one of the big drags on company sales in the last two quarters. Its rally slowed down in the second quarter, but it was much stronger compared to a year ago.

Here's how Factset breaks it down: 'In the year-ago quarter (Q2 2014), one euro was equal to $US1.37 dollars on average. For Q2 2015, one euro was equal to $US1.11 dollars on average. In the year-ago quarter (Q2 2014), one dollar was equal to $US102.10 yen on average. For Q2 2015, one dollar was equal to $US121.42 yen on average.'

According to Barclays, the translation effect could be larger than ever this season, especially because a greater share of S&P 500 sales now come from outside the US.

More buybacks are coming.

Although Goldman Sachs calls them a questionable use of cash, share buybacks have been exploding in 2015. They hit a record in February.

Companies like to announce share purchases with their earnings results, and Barclays expects even more this season, noting that buybacks tend to help stocks outperform.

Companies will shed more light on the strength of consumer spending.

To start the year, consumers didn't splurge their savings from lower gas prices, confounding economists. However, personal spending recently rose to a six-year high, and consumer confidence is around its highest levels of 2015.

Economists are again optimistic, and during this earnings season, companies could provide more colour on just how much of a comeback the consumer is making.

Look out for mentions of Greece, but don't expect much.

'While we do not believe exposure to Greece is meaningful, exposure to Europe is,' Barclays strategists wrote. 'Europe is the second largest market for S&P 500 companies. We estimate Europe accounts for approximately 10% of sales for the S&P 500.'

And finally, here's a handy chart of the major upcoming announcements to help mark your calendar

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