- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures tumbled early Monday as investors began a busy week of quarterly earnings reports that could test the stock market’s six-week rally. Bank of America Corp. said early Monday that it earned a surprise profit in the first quarter but that it also set aside $13.4 billion to cover losses on souring debt. The stock fell 5.6 percent in electronic premarket trading.

In addition, Halliburton Co. said its first-quarter earnings fell 35 percent as oil and natural gas producers cut back on exploration and drilling because of low prices. And software developer Oracle announced it has reached a $5.6 billion deal to purchase Sun Microsystems, the two companies announced Monday in a joint statement.

A private sector group’s monthly forecast of economic activity is expected to drop for the second straight month.

Investors are looking for signals that a rally from 12-year lows in early March can continue. Wall Street has been emboldened by early signals that the economy could be stabilizing. But after a 24 percent surge in the Dow Jones industrial average investors are asking whether the market has risen too quickly.

Dow futures fell 109, or 1.4 percent, at 7,975. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures fell 13.40, or 1.6 percent, at 853.40. Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 18.50, or 1.4 percent, to 1,333.50. Bond prices mostly rose. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 2.89 percent from 2.95 percent late Friday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, was unchanged at 0.13 percent from Friday.

Investors will be looking to earnings reports for any information on the direction of the economy. Figures on home sales, manufacturing, retail sales and even unemployment in the past six weeks have signaled that the economy might not be worsening as quickly as it had been only months ago.

Beyond earnings data, Wall Street will examine the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators. The report, which is designed to forecast economic activity in the next three to six months based on 10 components, is expected to dip 0.2 percent, according to analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.

In other market moves, the dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Light, sweet crude fell $2.05 to $48.28 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.19 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 2.3 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 2 percent

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