Stocks opened lower at the start of a week in which investors will learn how U.S. companies fared in the third quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 46 points, or 0.3%, to 13,564 shortly after the opening bell.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 7 points, 0.5%, to 1,454. The Nasdaq was down 19 points, or 0.6%, to 3,117.
Third-quarter earnings season begins with aluminum giant Alcoa Inc., which announces Tuesday. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is up Friday.
Earnings overall are expected to disappoint. Analysts expect corporate earnings for companies in the S&P; 500 to drop 2.4% from the same period a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters.
The ratio of companies that have pre-announced negative earnings-per-share (91) to those with positive pre-announcements (21) is at a level not seen since the third quarter of 2001, Thomson Reuters said.
As companies reveal last quarter's earnings in the coming weeks, Wall Street will be keeping an eye toward the fourth quarter.
Analysts expect companies in the S&P; 500 to have an average 9.5% of earnings growth this quarter, according to Thomson Reuters.
But those estimates have been steadily declining. Conference calls accompanying earnings releases may help analysts refine their estimates.