US Stocks Head for Moderately Lower Open

NEW YORK - Stocks appeared headed for a moderate decline Wednesday as investors awaited another round of first-quarter earnings reports and hoped the numbers would help determine where the economy is headed.

Boeing Co. said its first-quarter earnings rose 38 percent and that its revenue advanced 4.1 percent. The company affirmed its 2008 profit forecast.

Some results arriving Wednesday painted a lackluster picture of certain sectors. Bond insurer Ambac Financial Group reported it swung to a loss of $1.66 billion from a profit of $213.3 million a year earlier. The loss came in part because of charges for bonds backed by soured mortgages. The stock is down about 9 percent in premarket, electronic trading.

Health insurer WellPoint Inc. posted a 25 percent decline in its first-quarter profit and lowered its full-year forecast because of higher medical costs.

After the closing bell Tuesday, Yahoo Inc. reported stronger-than-expected profits and revenue, though its shares fell after the company affirmed its forecast, rather than boosting its predictions.

Wall Street has been digesting the flood of corporate numbers arriving in recent weeks as it tries to ascertain how long a slowdown in the economy might last. With little in the way of economic news expected this week, investors are left to focus on corporate news and await the next interest rate decision from the Federal Reserve, which is due in a week.

Stock futures, which had been higher early Wednesday, weakened.

Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 17, or 0.13 percent, to 12,719. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures declined 5.70, or 0.41 percent, to 1,375.10, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 5.50, or 0.29 percent, to 1,889.50.

The decline in stock futures comes a day after the Dow fell more than 100 points after results from names like DuPont and McDonald's Corp. failed to impress investors and as oil prices rose to fresh highs.

Light, sweet crude fell 57 cents to $117.50 in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bond prices slipped Wednesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.70 percent from 3.69 percent late Tuesday.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed up 0.23 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.91 percent, Germany's DAX index declined 1 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.45 percent.


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