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THE WEEK AHEAD: Oracle earnings on deck

And people thought earnings season was over.

Next week will see quarterly reports from several notable technology companies, including Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL). First Call's survey of 28 analysts predicts a profit of 13 cents per share for the world's second largest independent software vendor's fiscal first quarter, which historically has been its weakest period of the year.

But Wall Street will be looking at more than just top and bottom line results. Investors will get a chance to see how Oracle CEO Larry Ellison runs the company without Ray Lane, who resigned his president and chief operating officer posts in June. And Oracle should be almost finished with its much publicized plan to cut $1 billion in annual costs by transforming the company into an Internet-centric operation; analysts will be looking for details about further margin improvements.

Observers also will want figures related to sales of Web-related enterprise software and services. At least one research firm already views Oracle as a seller of technology for online business-to-business commerce, rather than old-fashioned software packages.

"Oracle is going to be incrementally highly valued as an investment if they are succcessful at becoming more important in selling people B2B software, as opposed to databases," said John Rohal, director of research for investment bank Robertson Stephens, which is reclassifying Oracle in terms of analyst coverage.

Other tech-related companies scheduled to release quarterly results include contract manufacturer Solectron (NYSE: SLR); electronics retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY); graphics and desktop publishing software vendor Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE); and Verity (Nasdaq: VRTY), which sells software for managing documents and other business information.

Scheduled economic reports

Wall Street's inflation watchers will be waiting for some key economic data, including August figures for the Producer Price Index and retail sales, both set for a Thursday morning release. Observers generally expect the government to report an increase of 0.3 percent to 0.4 percent in retail sales.

Friday will see Consumer Price Index numbers, along with the University of Michigan's popular Consumer Sentiment Index. Economy watchers anticipate a 0.1 to 0.2 percent rise in the CPI.

Barring unexpected jumps in the economic indices, don't expect stock markets to react too much to this round of figures. Many on Wall Street believe the Federal Reserve is finished with interest rate hikes at least until the U.S. presidential election concludes in November.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index lost 6 percent this week to end at 3,978.45, the first time in three weeks the Nasdaq has closed below the 4,000 mark. The S&P 500 lost dropped 1.7 percent percent to finish the week at 1,494.50.>