Earnings reports weigh on stocks

Sunday, October 25, 2009

U.S. stocks posted their first weekly decline in three weeks as several major companies forecast earnings that trailed Wall Street estimates.

Boeing slid 6.2 percent, the steepest drop among companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, as it posted a loss that was bigger than analysts forecast and reduced its full-year profit projection. Boston Scientific posted its biggest drop since February on concerns that sales of heart devices are slowing. Burlington Northern, meanwhile, fell 8.4 percent -- the most since March -- on concerns that shipments of consumer products will remain weak.

"Given that the market has moved up so far, investors are looking for more demand," said Richard I. Sichel, chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust. "The earnings get more difficult to beat when it needs to come from sales, rather than just cost-cutting."

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 0.7 percent, to 1079.6. The Dow fell 0.2 percent, to 9972.18. The Nasdaq composite index dropped 0.1 percent, to 2154.47.

The S&P 500 has climbed 60 percent since March 9, pushing the market value of its companies to more than 20 times their reported operating income, the most expensive level since 2004. More than 150 S&P 500 companies will report third-quarter earnings this week, including Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble and Verizon Communications.

The Treasury will auction $29 billion of three-month bills and $30 billion of six-month bills on Monday. They yielded 0.07 percent and 0.18 percent, respectively, in when-issued trading. The Treasury will sell one-month bills the next day.

-- Bloomberg News

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