Investors focus on State of the Union, earnings

Stocks are headed for a higher opening Wednesday as major companies released another round of earnings reports and President Barack Obama called for an overhaul of corporate taxes.

During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama said he wanted to close corporate tax loopholes and use the additional revenue to lower corporate tax rates for the first time in 25 years. That move would be popular with business leaders from both political parties, since the U.S. has some of the highest corporate tax rates in the industrialized world.

"If he can take steps to simplify the tax codes, be it for individuals or corporations, I think it would be a lot easier to do business," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

Obama's speech came during a week when many companies were also releasing earnings results.

On Wednesday, Xerox Corp. said its fourth-quarter net income dipped 5 percent from a year ago, largely due to the costs of restructuring. The company also issued a modest earnings forecast for the first quarter, and that sent its stock down 3.8 percent to $10.97 ahead of the opening bell.

Boeing Co. fell 3.1 percent to $69.99 in pre-market trading after the airplane builder and defense company said its fourth-quarter profit fell 8 percent from the same time last year. Boeing also said delays to its new 787 aircraft and higher pension expenses would hurt its 2011 profit.

Eastman Kodak Co. said fourth-quarter net income fell 95 percent as results were undermined by weaker camera revenue and a large gain from a year earlier. That sent its shares down 2.7 percent to $4.40 in pre-market trading.

United Continental Holdings Inc. said it lost $325 million in the fourth quarter because of expenses from combining United and Continental airlines. Excluding those costs, the world's biggest airline would have made a profit. It shares rose 2 percent to $24.62 in pre-market trading.

Starbucks Corp., Netflix Inc. and Qualcomm Inc. will report their earnings after the market closes.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 12 points, or 0.1 percent, at 11,934.

Standard & Poor's 500 index futures are up 4, or 0.3 percent, at 1,291. Nasdaq 100 index futures are up 8, or 0.3 percent, at 2,309.

Later in the day, the Commerce Department will release a report on new home sales for December. It's expected to a show a slight improvement from the previous month. Still, economists expect home sales for the full year to be the lowest on records dating back nearly a half century.

The Federal Reserve also releases a statement from its latest policy meeting, although it's not expected to announce any changes to interest rates or the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program.