Earnings warnings begin in earnest

Late yesterday, two of the largest American companies, Boeing (BA) and Chevron (CVX) warned on Q1 results. Almost anyone could have guessed Boeing is having a hard time. Global air travel is off sharply due to the recession and a number of airlines are expected to lose money in the first part of this year.

The airplane manufacturing and defense contractor said monthly production of the 777 will decline from seven to five airplanes per month beginning in June 2010. The 777 Dreamliner is Boeing's new flagship and has just started its delivery schedule to customers. Boeing's shares, which trade at $40, down by over half from their 52-week high, are likely to go lower.

Chevron's shortfall was also probably predictable due to the drop in the price of oil from last year. The company said earnings in its exploration business would be hurt by what it could get for crude and refining margins had been squeezed because of falling demand for refined products and chemicals. In its statement, Chevron said "that earnings for the first quarter 2009 are expected to be sharply lower than in the fourth quarter 2008. "

The one things about the statements from the two companies that might concern investors is that it has been broadly assumed that large companies had cut their earnings forecasts sharply because of anticipated poor results due to the slow economy.

It looks like some of the industrial giants did not cut enough. The market can't take much more of that.

Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.

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