- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — After the Dow Jones industrials’ worst first quarter in 70 years, Wall Street is preparing to start the second quarter with a decline.

Investors sent stock futures lower ahead of Thursday’s Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers from around the world.

They were also awaiting several gauges of the U.S. economy: a manufacturing activity index, pending sales of existing homes, construction spending data, and auto sales figures. The data are expected to modestly improve.

The Dow Jones industrial average is up 16 percent from its nearly 12-year low hit in early March. But it is still coming off the worst start to the year since 1939 — the Dow dropped 13.3 percent in the first quarter. If investors don’t see signs of an economic turnaround, or a concerted effort from world leaders to fix the financial system, the market’s recent gains could dissolve.

As thousands of protesters gathered in London, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown tried to quash talk of a split between their respective countries and continental Europe. Brown said the G20 was just hours away from agreeing to global reforms of the financial system.

Ahead of the market’s open, Dow futures fell 52, or 0.7 percent, to 7,510. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures fell 7.30, or 0.9 percent, to 787.50. Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 11.50, or 0.9 percent, to 1,226.

This week so far has been volatile. On Monday, the Dow plunged 254 points after President Barack Obama rejected the restructuring plans of General Motors and Chrysler. Then on Tuesday, the blue-chip index gained nearly 87 points.

Worries that U.S. automakers will have to go through bankruptcy restructuring continue to weigh on the market.

Bond prices slipped in early trading Wednesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.69 percent from 2.67 percent late Tuesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.21 percent from 0.20 percent.

Crude oil fell $1.15 to $48.51 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The dollar was mixed against other major currencies. Gold prices fell.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 2.99 percent. In midday trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.62 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.68 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.86 percent.

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