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Wall Street lower

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by Elaine Frei

With earnings reports expected from 171 of the S&P 500’s listed companies this week, the New York equities markets were down at midday on Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.1 percent to 11,331.52, while the Nasdaq Composite had dropped 0.5 percent to 2,331.13 and the S&P declined by 0.4 percent to 1,306.13.

In earnings news, Xerox reported profits down a disappointing 4.8 percent in the first quarter on slow sales. In response, its share fell 5.5 percent to $13.99. On the other hand, Caterpillar reported a much better than expected 48 percent rise in earnings, which sent shares up 1.6 percent to $79.12 early in the day. And, while American Express reported first quarter profits were up by 18 percent and it had added 1.5 million new cardholders, its shares still dropped 1.2 percent to $51.60.

So far this quarter, according to one analyst, 69 percent of companies reporting so far have had results above what had been predicted, while 19 percent have reported earnings at expected levels, and just 13 percent have come in below estimates.

Elsewhere, mergers and acquisitions were in the news as Washington Mutual said it had agreed to purchase Commercial Capital. The deal, worth $983 million, will give Washington Mutual more of a presence in the state of California. The news sent Commercial Capital’s shares up 10.7 percent to $15.67, but Washington Mutual dropped 1.6 percent to $44.31.

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News posted: April 24, 2006

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