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THE WEEK AHEAD: Novell, Intuit earnings up next

    Some key earnings reports from Hewlett-Packard and Applied Materials didn't provide the news investors were hoping for this week as tech and blue-chip stocks continued to struggle. Agilent, Novell and Intuit report next week.

    For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average closed up 27 points to 10,629.87 while the Nasdaq composite closed off 2 points to finish at 3,027.15.

    Putting aside the still uncertain presidential election results, Wall Street was a tad disappointed the Federal Reserve Board's Open Market Committee decided to leave both interest rates and their bias unchanged this week.

    Some investors were disappointed the Fed didn't change its bias while reiterating its concerns about a tight labor market and rising energy prices.

    "There was enough hope out there that it has put the market on a bit of the defensive," said Barry Hyman, chief investment strategist for Weatherly Securities.

    Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) really dealt investors a blow this week when it missed analysts' estimates by 10 cents a share in its fourth quarter.

    In the quarter, H-P earned 41 cents a share on sales of $13.3 billion, well below the First Call Corp. consensus estimate of 51 cents a share.

    Company officials said the weak earnings were caused by margin pressures, adverse currency effects, higher-than-expected expenses, and business mix.

    Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) didn't miss estimates by 10 cents a share, but it did lower its outlook for the first quarter after squeaking past analysts' estimates in its fourth quarter.

    The chip-equipment maker raked in $664 million, or 77 cents a share, on sales of $2.92 billion.

    It now expects earnings of 78 cents a share in the first quarter, down from the 80 cents a share analysts were expecting.

    It said it is looking for first quarter revenue ranging between $2.9 billion and $2.95 billion.

    Looking ahead to next week, Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A) will report its fourth-quarter results.

    Analysts are expecting a profit of 51 cents a share.

    In the year-ago quarter, Agilent beat the Street estimate when it raked in $155 million, or 33 cents a share, on sales of $2.7 billion.

    Its shares fell to a 52-week low of $38.06 earlier this month after peaking at $162 in March.

  • Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) will also report its fourth-quarter results next week with analysts forecasting a breakeven quarter.

    Last quarter, Novell pocketed $8.6 million, or 3 cents a share, on sales of $270 million.

  • Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU) is expected to post a loss of 16 cents a share in its first quarter.

    The financial software developer lost $8.2 million, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $162.3 million in its fourth quarter.