THE WEEK AHEAD: Fed meeting takes center stage

2 min read

After more than a month of speculation and hypothesizing, investors will finally learn exactly what the Federal Reserve Board intends to do with interest rates when it holds its policy meeting Tuesday. Most analysts are convinced the Fed will leave rates unchanged.

"Everybody's mind is that the Fed is not going to make any moves," said Chris Dickerson of Global Market Strategists. "I think people are returning to the market. They realize that the market is weak and we are seeing some selective buying in technology."

However, investors are also nervous that while a slowing economy may result in stable interest rates, it could also water down corporate earnings down the road.

"There is still concern about earnings out there," said Barry Hyman, market strategist for Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum Inc. "As we get closer and closer to the (Federal Reserve) meeting on Tuesday, it is very likely that we will not see many people stepping ahead of that."

For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average added 19 points to close at 11,046.48. The Nasdaq composite moved up 141 points to 3,930.27.

Investors were generally impressed with earnings reports from key technology firms this week.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) checked in with strong third-quarter earnings but analysts were mixed on the computing giant's outlook.

In the quarter, H-P earned $1.1 billion, or 97 cents a share, on sales of $11.8 billion.

It also set a 2-for-1 stock split.

And Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN) continued its hot streak, shattering analysts' estimates in its third quarter.

Ciena, which also set a 2-for-1 stock split ahead of the earnings report, raked in $28.2 million, or 19 cents a share, on sales of $233.3 million.

Looking ahead to next week, investors will want to keep an eye out for earnings from the likes of Intuit, VA Linux Systems and Sycamore Networks.

  • Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU) is reloading for the tax season these days. The financial software developer is expected to post a fourth-quarter loss of 9 cents a share, according to a survey of analysts by First Call Corp.

    Last quarter, Intuit raked in $76.3 million, or 36 cents a share, on sales of $329.1 million.

  • VA Linux Systems (Nasdaq: LNUX) will also report its fourth-quarter results.

    Analysts are expecting it to lose 15 cents a share in the quarter.

    VA Linux lost $4.5 million, or 13 cents a share, on sales of $34.6 million in its third quarter.

  • Sycamore Networks (Nasdaq: SCMR) is expected to earn 6 cents a share in its fourth quarter.

    Last quarter, it earned $11.7 million, or 5 cents a share, on sales of $59.2 million.