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THE DAY AHEAD: Market Preview

Watch for a break in the gloom that's been hanging over the stock market on Thursday - though don't look for it to last. Asia was mixed and Europe edged higher. The Dow is set to gain slightly at the bell.

U.S.

The gloom and doom may lift a bit on Thursday as investors finally settle into the idea that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates later in the year.

Fed chief Alan Greenspan gave no hints of his thoughts on the U.S. economy in his speech yesterday. New home sales for May came in stronger than expected at 978,000 for the month, from the 915,000 expected. This shows that confidence in the economy remains strong if so many are willing to put down such a large sum of money for a new house.

Initial jobless claims for the week of May 29 are due out at 8:30 a.m. EST. Claims are expected to dip by 10,000 to 290,000 from the previous week. Though expected to drop slightly, unemployment is still near a 30-year low.

Watch payroll figures and the jobless count - a tight job market is great for workers, but bad for bottom lines, since companies have to pay more to hire and retain staff. Non-farm payroll figures for May, which are reported tomorrow at 8:30 a.m., are seen rising to 275,000 from 215,000. This expected rise puts gasoline on the flames of worry that the Fed will boost rates because the economy is overheating.

Among the stocks to watch: IXL Enterprises begins trading, Hewlett-Packard expects double-digit sales growth in the second half, Paul Allen sold some Microsoft and Ortel beat estimates.

On Wednesday, stocks ended on a mixed note, with blue chips stuck lower while the technology-heavy Nasdaq market reversed course to manage a 20-point gain to close at 2,432. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 18 to 10,577.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index added 3 to 285.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average is set to open a touch higher at the bell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts rose 1.5 points to 1,297.7 at 7:47 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading, are indicating a 12-point gain in the global bellwether.

Asia

Asia gained, excluding Japan. The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo dropped 1.16 percent to 16,227, the Seoul composite in South Korea gained 0.41 percent to 778, Singapore's Strait Times index added 0.76 percent to 1,942 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.1 percent to 12,471.

Europe

European markets crept higher in late-morning trading on hopes that the war in Yugoslavia may end soon. London's FTSE 100 edged up 0.28 percent to 6,319 and the CAC 40 in Paris advanced 0.62 percent to 4,342 at 8:01 a.m. EST. The Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was closed for a national holiday.