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THE WEEK AHEAD: Election angst, tech earnings on deck

With the presidential election still in doubt, investors voted to sell leading technology and blue-chip stocks this week. Assuming some clarity comes over the weekend, Wall Street will be able to focus on earnings from Applied Materials and Sycamore Networks.

For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 215 points to 10,602.95 while the Nasdaq composite shed 422 points to finish at 3,029.10.

Although it appears that George W. Bush will eventually be declared the winner, the ongoing controversy in Florida and possible legal challenges to the vote has cast a pall over Wall Street.

"We are going to see quite a bit of weakness in the market until this is resolved. We are looking at a market that is looking for a leader," said Alan Ackerman, executive vice president for Fahnestock & Co. "With no immediate end in sight, my sense is that sellers will be busy bees over the next few sessions."

More important, investors want to see better revenue growth from the traditional leaders in this bull market such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) and Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO).

On Monday, Cisco beat the Street in its first quarter, raking in $1.36 billion, or 18 cents a share, on sales of $6.52 billion.

Cisco shares were unable to build on the upside surprise through the week.

Dell managed to meet analysts' estimates in its third quarter, earning $674 million, or 25 cents a share, on sales of $8.26 billion.

However, it appears Dell cut prices sharply in the latter part of the quarter to meet analysts' sales targets.

Looking ahead to next week, investors will be paying close attention to several key technology earnings reports.

Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) will report its fourth-quarter earnings next week with analysts expecting a profit of 76 cents a share.

Last quarter, the world's largest semiconductor equipment maker earned $604 million, or 70 cents a share, on sales of $2.73 billion.

On Friday, Banc of America Securities analyst Mark Fitzgerald sounded a note of caution.

"We think that the company will hit street estimates," he wrote in a research note. "However, we think the outlook on bookings is murky and will lead to cautious first-quarter guidance on bookings."

Sycamore Networks (Nasdaq: SCMR) is expected to post a first-quarter profit of a penny a share.

Last quarter, it beat the Street when it posted a profit of $20.4 million, or 8 cents a share, on sales of $90.4.

Sycamore shares have suffered along with the rest of the telecom-equipment makers in the past month.

Network Appliance (Nasdaq: NTAP) will also report its second-quarter results next week.

First Call Corp. consensus expects it to earn 9 cents a share.

Last quarter, it earned $32.3 million, or 9 cents a share, on sales of $231.2 million.

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