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MARKET PREVIEW: It&#039&#039s all about the GDP report

Investors will be eyeing a major indicator of how the economy is doing, and trying to extrapolate what it means for interest rates. Asian and markets were mixed, Europe moved down, and the Dow is set to open slightly lower.


The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report will be the center of attention Friday. The index of economic activity is expected to show the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 0.9 percent, down from 1 percent growth in the fourth quarter. That will be a big slowdown compared with the economy's growth of 4.8 percent rate in the first quarter a year ago. It's therefore likely to prompt Federal Reserve policymakers to add one more interest rate cut to their four so far this year.

Big rumors in the telecom sector may also attract attention; The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that France's Alcatel (NYSE: ALA) has had preliminary talks with rival Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) about the purchase of Lucent's fiber-optic business.

Earnings will also have their place on the agenda. Nextel Communications (Nasdaq: NXTL) is expected to report before the bell, and the markets will be digesting last night's report from Corning (NYSE: GLW)--the maker of fiber-optic components and cable--that cut its earnings and sales targets for the rest of 2001.

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Friday's most actively traded issues: Corning, Exodus Communications, VeriSign and VerticalNet.

Technology stocks pulled back in late trading Thursday as the Nasdaq composite shaved off 25 points to finish at 2,034.96.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average may open 5 points lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was off 0.6 points to 1239 at 7:15 a.m. EDT in 24-hour electronic trading.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rose 5 to 191.54.


Trading in Asia was mixed. The Nikkei 225 fell 38.71 to 13,934.32, Singapore's Straits Times index rose 16.38 to 1,686.45 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 92.93 to 13,386.04.


European markets were down. London's FTSE 100 fell 14.70 to 5,853.60, the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.64 to 5,481.09 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was down 26.36 to 6,097.30.

Reuters contributed to this report.