Stocks Dip Slightly as the Start of Earnings Season Nears

Updated from 9:46 a.m. EST

Stocks in New York opened in neutral as President Bush delivered his last press conference as commander in chief, and investors braced for the kickoff of fourth-quarter earnings reports.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was losing 51 points at 8547, and the S&P 500 was off by 8 points at 881. The Nasdaq was down 10 points at 1560.

The most recent jobs data and news of more layoffs across industries weighed on stocks Friday. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 4.8%; the S&P gave up 4.4%; and the Nasdaq retreated 3.7%.

But this week investors will focus on earnings as the first batch of fourth-quarter reports dribble in, starting with Alcoa ( AA) after Monday's market close.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are expecting Alcoa to report a loss of 10 cents a share.

Chevron ( CVX), Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Intel ( INTC) tempered expectations last week, shaking investor confidence. And Alcoa and Boeing ( BA) announced they would cut thousands of workers in an effort to better handle the economic downturn.

Shares of UBS ( UBS) were in retreat early Monday on reports that the bank will announce record full-year losses next month.

Late Friday afternoon, Citigroup ( C) announced that Robert Rubin , senior counsel and a director at the bank, was resigning. The former Treasury Secretary has come under fire over the past two months for his role in encouraging the New York bank's foray into toxic debt that has laid waste to its balance sheet.

In possible further changes for the bank, CNBC also reported that Citigroup and Morgan Stanley ( MS) are in talks about merging their brokerage businesses.

President-elect Barack Obama last week pledged accountability and transparency in a pitch for his administration's $800 billion economic stimulus plan, dubbed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. The president elect has also promised to better monitor the second $350 billion of the troubled asset relief fund (TARP) -- bailout money for the financial institutions - should lawmakers release it.

President Bush said Monday in his last press conference of his term that he has talked to Obama about the TARP money and would be willing to ask for it if the president elect needed it ready.

"He hasn't asked me to make the request yet, and I don't intend to make it unless he specifically asks me to make it," said President Bush.

Meanwhile, Mideast tensions, signs that OPEC supply restrictions are being implemented and the Gazprom-Ukraine gas dispute were outweighed by concerns that the economic downturn would continue to weigh on demand. Oil prices fell 17% last week, and started the new week on a downward course, declining $2.59 at $38.24 a barrel.

Gold was down $25.30 to $829.70 an ounce. Longer-dated Treasuries were recently falling; the 10-year note was declining 9/32 to yield 2.4%, and the 30-year was down 25/32, yielding 3.1%.

The dollar was stronger against the euro and pound, and weaker against the yen.

Overseas, the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were both edging lower Monday, while Japan's Nikkei Hong Kong's Hang Seng ended with losses.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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