Boeing Leads Dow Higher; Ambac Skids

Stocks ticked higher Wednesday, with Boeing landing the top-gainer spot on the Dow after a solid quarterly report from the jet maker.

Boeing reported its profit rose 38 percent, more than expected, driven by strong demand for commercial jets. The aerospace giant also backed its full-year forecast of $5.70 to $5.85 a share.

Meanwhile, Ambac, shares skidded 25 percent after the bond insurer reported a loss of $1.66 billion, or $11.69 a share, compared with a profit of $213.3 million, or $2.02 a share, a year earlier. Excluding certain items, the loss was $6.93 per share, more than three times the expected loss, as the company wrote down $1.73 billion for missed payments on complex investments backed by home loans.

Safeco shares jumped about 50 percent after Liberty Mutual agreed to buy the property and casualty insurer for $6.2 billion. The deal would make diversified insurer Liberty the fifth largest U.S. property and casualty insurer.

Another day, another IPO.

American Water Works dropped 5 percent in its debut on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "AWK." Late Tuesday, 58 million shares were priced at $21.50. Both the number of shares and offering price were lower than expected. The IPO had already been delayed once, in November, due to weak market conditions.

That was a stark contrast to Tuesday's IPO of fertilizer company Intrepid Potash , which soared 58 percent on its first day on the Big Board. The company raised $960 million with its initial public offering, priced late Monday at $32 a share. The stock trades as "IPI."

Commercial airlines issued dismal quarterly reports.

Deltareported a loss far worse than expected, citing soaring fuel costs. Delta is preparing to merge with Northwest Airlines, which also posted a larger loss than expected.

Internet portal -- and Microsoft target -- Yahoo reported a profit after the bell Tuesday that edged past expectations but analysts said it was unlikely to cause to Microsoft to raise its offer of $31 a share.

Apple ticked higher ahead of earnings from the iPhone and iPod maker, due out after the closing bell. Analysts expect $1.07 a share, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

More troubles appeared for the housing industry, as an industry group reported a sharp drop in mortgage applications in the face of rising interest rates.

Still to Come:

WEDNESDAY: Crude inventories; earnings from Amazon, Apple and Pulte Homes
THURSDAY: Jobless claims; durable-goods orders; new-home sales; Earnings from Aetna,
Bristol-Myers, ConocoPhillips, Motorola, Pepsi, American Express and Microsoft
FRIDAY: Consumer sentiment; earnings from Ericsson, Honda

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