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Stocks Back Away From Highs

Some lackluster earnings send the averages lower.

Stocks backed away from multiyear highs Thursday as the yield curve's inversion widened and traders took the measure of some underwhelming earnings news.

Index futures recently showed the

S&P 500

trading 3 points below fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 4-point decline. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 3/32 in price to yield 4.54% -- 15 basis points below the two-year note's yield -- while the dollar was lower against the yen and euro.

Oil held steady after dropping $1.19 a barrel Wednesday as traders turned defensive ahead of today's Energy Department inventory update. The report is expected to show roughly million-barrel builds in crude and gasoline stocks and a small decline in distillates. Recently, April crude was losing 8 cents to $60.93 a barrel.

Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 recently down 0.4% to 5848 and Germany's Xetra DAX little changed at 5862. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 2% overnight to 16,096, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.1% to 15,812.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed at nearly a four-year high Wednesday as a rally in bank stocks lifted the broader market. The Dow gained 0.6% to 11,137, while the S&P 500 rose 0.8% to 1293 and the

Nasdaq Composite

gained 0.9% to 2283.

Among companies,

Toll Brothers

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delivered first-quarter earnings that were better than its recent profit guidance implied, saying earnings rose 49% from a year ago to $163.9 million, or 98 cents a share. Toll guided 2006 earnings above estimates but also reiterated its now familiar litany of caution, saying speculator activity leaves it "on the other side" of a previously accelerating demand slope.

Viacom

(VIAB) - Get Viacom Inc. Class B Report

said pro forma earnings from continuing operations fell 42% from a year ago to $220 million, or 29 cents a share. Adjusted for charges, earnings of 37 cents a share were 10 cents short of estimates.

To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action, click here

.

Salesforce.com's

(CRM) - Get salesforce.com, inc. Report

fourth-quarter earnings rose 63% from a year ago to $5.9 million, or 5 cents a share, matching estimates. The company pegged 2007 earnings at 20 cents to 22 cents a share on revenue of $470 million to $475 million. Analysts were forecasting earnings of 24 cents a share on sales of $475 million.

Sina

(SINA) - Get SINA Corp. Report

reported a 21% decline in fourth quarter profit to $13.8 million, or 24 cents a share, while adjusted profit of 21 cents a share was a penny light. Sina put first-quarter revenue at $44.5 million and $46.5 million. Analysts had been forecasting $52.2 million.

Host Marriott

(HMT)

said funds from operations were 44 cents a share in its fourth quarter, higher than expected, but the hospitality REIT said first-quarter FFO should be 23 cents to 25 cents a share, below the 31-cent consensus.