Stocks Open Lower as IBM News Shrugged Off

Stocks in New York opened to the downside, as the government reported a key inflation indicator, AIG's chief was called to Washington, and IBM was said to be in talks to buy Sun Microsystems.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was falling 61 points to 7334, while the S&P 500 was off by 5 points at 773. The Nasdaq was also on the decline, falling 9 points, to 1453.

The Labor Department said Wednesday the consumer price index, the most widely cited inflation indicator, rose 0.4% in February, or 0.2% when factoring out food and energy prices. Both increased a tenth of a percentage point more than expected.

The Federal Reserve will wrap up its two-day policy setting meeting today, and is expected to keep its key interest rate at a record low range. Wall Street will be watching for language on the Fed's plans to buy long-term treasuries, as well as more information on programs like the "TALF."

Meanwhile, AIG ( AIG) chief Edward M. Liddy, who took over as chairman and chief executive of AIG at the government's request, will join lawmakers today to answer to their outrage about the now infamous bonuses slated for employees of the 80%-taxpayer-owned insurance giant.

In corporate news, IBM ( IBM)is reportedly in discussions to pick up Sun Microsystems ( JAVA) for at least $6.5 billion in cash.

Meanwhile, General Mills ( GIS) raised its earnings guidance for fiscal 2009 to by a few cents a share before any impact from mark-to-market valuation and other items, after reporting a 33% decline in third quarter earnings.

Markets rallied on Tuesday after surprisingly positive housing data, overcoming daunting outlooks from some key industrial stocks.

Looking at commodities, oil was falling 45 cents to $48.71, while gold fell $10.10 to $906.70.

Stocks in Europe were largely lower, while stocks in Asia were mixed. The FTSE in London and DAX in Frankfurt were lower by 0.2% and 1.4%, respectively.

In the bond market, longer-dated Treasuries were recently falling, after reversing direction twice midday. The 10-year note was losing 11.5/32 to yield 3%, and the 30-year was falling 31.5/32, yielding 3.8%. The dollar was recently weaker the yen and pound, and stronger against the euro.

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