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MARKET PREVIEW: Big Blue boost?

A solid performance from IBM along with another slew of tech earnings will keep investors busy Thursday. Asian markets were mixed and early indicators have the Dow set to open slightly higher.


Reporting after yesterday's market close, IBM (NYSE: IBM) topped analyst estimates by 2 cents a share, with fourth quarter net income rising 28 percent. Big Blue also said it was comfortable with 2001 estimates.

Among other companies reporting yesterday, i2 Technologies (Nasdaq: ITWO) beat estimates for its fourth quarter, network equipment makers Extreme Networks (Nasdaq: EXTR) and Redback Networks (Nasdaq: RBAK) matched and topped their respective consensus numbers, while Apple Computers (Nasdaq: AAPL) posted a wider-than-expected loss.

Among other tech heavy hitters reporting today, Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), Altera Corp. (Nasdaq: ALTR), Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) are all scheduled to deliver quarterly earnings numbers after today's session.

On the economic front, two more key economic indicators will be released before the opening bell. Housing Starts for December are expected to decline to 1.5 million, according to a survey of economists by The Labor Department's initial jobless claims number is forecast to rise to 355,000 from 345,000

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Thursday's most actively traded issues: Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD), Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL), IBM (NYSE: IBM), KLA-Tencor (Nasdaq: KLAC), Redback Networks (Nasdaq: RBAK).

The Nasdaq rose 64.23 to 2,682.78 on Wednesday while the Dow Jones industrial average lost 68.32 to 10,584.34.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average is expected to open up 1.6 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 futures index gained 0.2 to 1341.90, just above fair value, at 7:21 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rose 11 to 312.48.


The major Asian markets were mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng and the Nikkei 225 both gained triple-digits, up 267.27 to 15,528.75 and 206.29 to 13,873.92, respectively. Singapore's Strait Times slipped 19.59 to 1,887.59.


European markets were unsettled as well. London's FTSE 100 inched up 1.80 to 6,199.20, the CAC 40 in Paris was off 12.49 to 5,871.60 and the DAX in Frankfurt traded down 52.16 to 6,601.22 at 7:09 a.m. EST.

Reuters contributed to this report.