Opening Bell Report

The major indexes opened mostly lower as investors awaited the government's plan to overhaul the financial services industry. The Dow slipped 2 points to 12,214 while Nasdaq lost 4 points to 2258.

On the upside

Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO) announced a buyback of up to 15 million shares. Meanwhile, its CEO commented on the possibility of buying the Absolut vodka business "at the right price." However, it appears that a French distiller may be in the lead for that acquisition.

Oil drilling contractor Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) signed contracts worth up to $4 billion over 29 years with Brazilian state oil company Petrobras covering 5 deepwater rigs.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) was identified as the brand with the strongest impact on the world's consumers, according to a poll by brandchannel.com.

On the downside

Shares of Merck (NYSE: MRK) and Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP) tumbled on reports that the companies' joint anti-cholestrol drug may be ineffective.

Citigroup (NYSE: C) announced plans to split its consumer banking unit from its credit card business.

Egg producer Cal-Maine Foods (Nasdaq: CALM) posted sharply higher revenues and earnings due to soaring egg prices and high demand. Investors decided to take profits on the stock as it neared an all-time record high.

In the broad market, advancing issues outpaced decliners by a margin of 2 to 1 on the NYSE and by nearly 2 to 1 on Nasdaq. The Russell 2000 which tracks small cap stocks edged up a point to 684.

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