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THE WEEK AHEAD: Fed, 3Com earnings on deck

The endless speculation about interest rates will come to an end next week when the Federal Open Market Committee gathers to decide the nation's monetary policy. Most analysts are predicting the Fed will stand pat at least until later this year.

But all this consternation took its toll on stocks this week as the Dow Jones industrial average closed off 45 points to 10,404.75 for the week. The Nasdaq composite shed 15 points to close at 3,845.61.

"This is the same pattern that we see when we get within earshot of the FOMC meeting,'' said Charles Payne, head analyst at Wall Street Strategies. "People seek the safety of the blue chips and take their profits from the Nasdaq."

For an early summer week, this past one had its share of drama.

Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) reported better-than-expected earnings in its fourth quarter but investors weren't terribly impressed.

In the quarter, Oracle earned $926 million, or 31 cents a share, on sales of $3.4 billion. Officials were also bullish on the first quarter outlook.

"The first quarter pipeline is stunning, awesome," said CFO Jeff Henley. "I don't know how to describe it. We've had healthy pipeline growth, but this is stunning."

However, the stock lost more than $5 a share for the rest of the week.

Micron Electronics (Nasdaq: MUEI) and Micron Technology (NYSE: MU) both beat the Street in their latest quarter and see strong growth ahead. (Nasdaq: AMZN) took a bath Friday after a pair of analysts told the Street to expect less-than-spectacular earnings in the next two quarters and a bond analyst said the company was a credit risk.

Morgan Stanley's Mary Meeker and Merrill Lynch's Henry Blodget, said the online retailer's sales were slowing, a devastating blow for an Internet company that counted on strong revenue growth to propel its stock.

Lehman Brothers convertible bond analyst Ravi Suria wrote a scathing research report, saying is "displaying the operational and cash flow characteristics of a normal retailer, despite its 'virtual' pedigree."

Looking ahead to next week, 3Com (Nasdaq: COMS) will report its fourth quarter results with analysts expecting a rare loss of 42 cents a share.

Last quarter, the network-equipment maker pocketed $97.4 million, or 27 cents a share, on sales of $1.4 billion.

However, 3Com's fourth quarter results will take a hit because of restructuring. The company expects revenue ranging between $675 million and $750 million in the May quarter, with an operating loss of $450 million to $500 million.

That loss includes a portion of $200 million to $300 million in restructuring charges that will be taken over the next two fiscal quarters.