Wednesday brings another flood of big earnings reports. Investors will focus first on two big events in the media sector, where cable giants Comcast ( CMCSA) and Time Warner ( TWX) are
due to post first-quarter numbers. Fans of the companies will be eager to see continuing growth in their lucrative digital services -- an area where Time Warner and Comcast face increasing competition from Bell companies such as Verizon ( VZ). Other high points throughout the day will include a closely watched Boeing ( BA) report, expected early on, and postclose figures from struggling former tech favorites JDS Uniphase ( JDSU) and RealNetworks ( RNWK). Philadelphia cable giant Comcast opened festivities with its latest numbers. The company posted a 21% rise in cable cash flow growth. Far more telling, though, was Comcast's decision to drop its pending hostile bid for media titan Disney ( DIS). In February, Comcast unveiled a $48 billion all-stock offer for Burbank, Calif.-based Disney, but the market immediately discounted the deal and little action has taken place since. Comcast shares rose 6% after the company said Wednesday it would walk away from the bid. Boeing, the embattled maker of commercial jets and military gear, takes center stage next. The Chicago company's earnings preannouncement last Thursday told Wall Street to expect profits above the 44-cent-a-share analyst consensus estimate, but it didn't say why. Investors concerned about competition from Airbus and ongoing military-bidding probes will want to hear reassuring words from CEO Harry Stonecipher, who is at the helm for his first full quarter. In the afternoon the focus will turn to Time Warner, where investors will continue to focus on subscription businesses. The question there is whether Time Warner's America Online is getting any better at navigating the transition from dial-up Internet connections to a broadband consumer Internet. Subsidiary issues include to what extent cable operators, Time Warner included, will be able to convert advanced services to cash, and whether ongoing probes of the company's accounting have advanced further. Analysts expect Time Warner to make 9 cents a share on revenue of $9.51 billion in the first quarter ended March 31. Operating income before depreciation and amortization is expected to be $2.05 billion. Other postclose highlights will include reports from JDS, the one-time highflier that embarked on a massive acquisition spree in the optical networking business just before that industry collapsed, and RealNetworks, which is trying to recast itself as a force in the still nascent online music business. Analysts expect a penny-a-share loss on $158 million in sales at JDS, and a 4-cent loss on $57 million in revenue at RealNetworks.