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MARKET PREVIEW: Earnings arrive at post-Fed-watch party

Earnings and economic news could sway techs either way Thursday, though investors weary of holding out for clues to interest rates' futures are likely to keep eating up bargains. Asia rose while Europe edged down, and the Dow is set to open slightly lower.


Earnings and news should keep the market busy, as Greenspan's Humphrey-Hawkins speech fades in the distance. It's a big day for earnings with MCI Worldcom, (Nasdaq: WCOM), AT&T (NYSE: T) and Frontier Corp. (NYSE: FRO) among those scheduled to show their accomplishments for the quarter.

Earnings may not be the only thing moving telecom stocks. Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) may be on the bidding block for an offer from Deutsche Telekom, according to an article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.

Economic reports on the heels of Alan Greenspan's reiteration of the central bank's hawkish eye on inflation may sway the markets. The Labor Department's employment cost index, seen as a gauge of inflation, is expected to be 0.8 percent in the second quarter, up from 0.4 percent in the prior period, according to a Reuters survey. Second-quarter data on gross domestic product is also expected to come in early Thursday at 3.3 percent annual growth, down from 4.3 percent. The GDP deflator is expected to grow at a rate of 1.6 percent, the same rate as recorded previously.

The market will also get a chance to digest Compaq Computer Corp. (NYSE: CPQ)'s reported loss and plans to restructure which include slashing 11 percent of its work force.

Other technology stocks to be among Thursday's most actively traded issues: AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ask Jeeves Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ), PSINet Inc. (Nasdaq: PSIX)and StarMedia Network Inc. (Nasdaq: STRM).

Internet and semiconductor stocks enjoyed strong gains Wednesday in cautious trading following Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's rather bland testimony before the Senate. The Dow lost 7 points to 10,972.07 while the Nasdaq added 27 points to close at 2,705.84.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average may open about 24 points lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was down 3.0 points to 1365 at 7:35 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rose 7.62 to 293.00.


Trading in Asia was looking up. The Nikkei 225 rose 1.65 percent to 17,870, Singapore's Strait Times index gained 3.32 percent to 2,147 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.17 percent to 13,118.


European markets were moving into the red. London's FTSE 100 fell 1.16 percent to 6,224. The CAC 40 in Paris slipped 0.70 percent to 4,398 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was down 1.48 percent to 5,152 at 6:50 a.m. EST.

Reuters contributed to this report.