After moving higher over the course of the holiday-shortened previous week, stocks are likely to move modestly lower in early trading on Monday as investors look ahead to the release of quarterly results from several big name financial companies.

Earnings season will pick up steam later in the week, with financial giants Citigroup (C), JP Morgan (JPM), and Goldman Sachs (GS) among the companies that are due to release their quarterly results.

The release of results from tech giants Intel (INTC) and Google (GOOG) and consumer bellwether Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) will also impact market sentiment.

Meanwhile, First Niagara (FNFG) released its results earlier today, reporting first quarter non-GAAP net income of $21.5 million or $0.16 per share compared to $20.9 million or $0.19 per share a year ago. Net income available to common shareholders was $18.8 million.

Separately, the company announced that it expects to offer and sell approximately $300 million of common stock in an underwritten public offering through Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Goldman Sachs.

First Niagara noted that the net proceeds from the offering would be used to enhance its capital levels in anticipation of the closing of its previously announced acquisition of 57 Western Pennsylvania branches, $4.2 billion of deposits and $839 million in loans from National City Bank.

In other corporate news, Express Scripts (ESRX), one of North America's largest pharmacy benefits management companies, announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire health insurer WellPoint's (WLP) NextRx subsidiaries for $4.675 billion.

Express Scripts noted that the transaction value includes consideration for the value of a future tax benefit for the company based on the structure of the transaction.

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department is directing General Motors Corp. (GM) to prepare for a bankruptcy filing by a June 1 deadline, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the plans.

Auto task force members held talks with General Motors officials last week and are expected to continue discussions this week, the report added.

The report specified that one plan under consideration would create a new company that would buy the good assets of the company almost immediately after the carmaker files for bankruptcy.

Better sentiment toward the financial sector and encouraging economic news drove stocks substantially higher on Thursday, allowing Wall Street to close out the holiday-shortened week on a high note.

Strong preliminary results from banking giant Wells Fargo (WFC) gave hope that the financials were not a lost cause and some better-than-expected economic data also contributed to the improved sentiment.

The Dow finished the week above the 8,000 mark after a bout of profit taking earlier in the week sparked doubt about the market's ability to hold that level. With the gains, the major averages all closed higher for the fifth straight week.

Crude oil futures are receding $1.04 to $51.20 a barrel after the International Energy Agency lowered its global oil demand forecast for 2009 by 1 million barrels. Last week, the price of oil edged down $0.27 or 0.5 percent to $52.24 barrel.

Meanwhile, gold futures are rising $6.30 to $887.30 an ounce. In the previous week, gold fell $16.30 or 1.9 percent to $881 an ounce.

On the currency front, the dollar showed a mixed performance last week, edging down 0.1 percent to 100.23 yen but climbing 2.2 percent against the euro to $1.3188. Currently, the dollar is trading at 100.348 yen and is valued at $1.3295 versus the euro.

Overseas, while several of the major markets in the Asia-Pacific region remained closed for Easter Monday, most of the markets in the region that were open closed higher. The major European markets are all closed for the Easter Monday holiday.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com