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MARKET PREVIEW: Pre-holiday earnings feast

Earnings will continue to drive techs as trading tapers off for the long weekend Thursday. Asian markets were mixed, Europe moved down, and the Dow is set to open slightly higher.


The Nasdaq closed lower again Wednesday after losses from Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) followed their less-than-spectacular earnings reports. The index may revive Thursday with a new batch of earnings news, but trading should be light due to Passover, and the approach of the Easter weekend. The bond market will close early, at 2:00 EST.

Earnings which will drive techs Thursday include those of Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL), which reported strong results after Wednesday's bell, and announced a two-for-one stock split.

A report from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is also due out after market close. The software maker is expected to report earnings of 41 cents a share for its third quarter. Quarterly reports from Silicon Graphics (NYSE: SGE), BellSouth (NYSE: BLS), Phoenix Technologies (Nasdaq: PTEC)and (Nasdaq: MPPP) are also due out Thursday.

On the IPO front, 360networks (Nasdaq: TSIX), a fiber optic backbone building a network connecting European and American cities, priced its offering of 46.275 million shares at $14, the high end of its lowered $12-14 range.

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Thursday's most actively traded issues: Apple, Citrix Systems, Commerce One, Excite@Home and Informix.

Technology stocks cooled off a bit Wednesday after somewhat disappointing earnings reports from the likes of Intel and IBM. The Nasdaq composite closed off 87 points to 3,706.51 while the Dow shed 92 points to close at 10,674.96.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average may open about 17 points higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was up 2.3 points to 1442 at 7:31 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index was down 9 to 469.64.


Trading in Asia was mixed. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.67 percent to 18,959, Singapore's Strait Times index gained 1.04 percent to 2,080 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.39 percent to 15,367.


European markets were also moving in different directions. London's FTSE 100 lost 0.13 percent to 6,177. The CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.92 percent to 6,233 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was down 0.31 percent to 7,194 at 7:11 a.m. EST.

Reuters contributed to this report.