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THE WEEK AHEAD: H-P, Ciena earnings on deck

Hewlett-Packard, Novell and Ciena will all report earnings next week. Investors are hoping some strong profits will spark the technology sector, especially after Cisco, Applied Materials and Dell couldn't this week.

For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average shot up 260 points to 11,027.80. The Nasdaq composite inched up 2 points to 3,789.42 despite strong earnings from Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT).

As we move closer to the Aug. 22 Federal Reserve Board meeting, analysts are fairly confident that interest rates will remain unchanged.

This week, the Labor Department reported worker productivity rose at a 5.3 percent clip in the second quarter, well above the 1.9 percent gain posted in the first quarter. Economists said the strong performance suggests the Fed will be inclined to leave interest rates alone later this month.

"Those numbers were really positive for the market,'' said Charles Payne, head analyst at independent research firm Wall Street Strategies. ``Investors are not ready to get out of the market and whenever they get a little concerned, they jump back into the safer Dow stocks.''

However, as much as investors want interest rates to remain static, they don't want to see corporate earnings taper off in the process.

"Not only are there signs of the economy slowing here and there, but there's also a huge pickup in the economy's growth capacity with the productivity numbers the way they are," said Jim Glassman, senior economist at Chase Securities Inc. "All of that has made people pretty comfortable with the idea of the Fed being out of the picture for a while."

Looking ahead to next week, several important technology firms will report their third-quarter results.

  • Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) is expected to post a profit of 85 cents a share in its third quarter, according to a survey of analysts by First Call Corp.

    Last quarter, it beat the Street estimates by 5 cents a share, posting a profit of 87 cents a share on sales of $12 billion.

  • Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN) has watched its stock take off this year as investors have recognized the potential of fiber-optic equipment manufacturers.

    First Call Corp. consensus sees Ciena earning 17 cents a share in the quarter, up from the $18.4 million, or 12 cents a share, it earned last quarter.

  • Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL) will report its third-quarter results next week with analysts projecting a profit of 2 cents a share.

    Its shares were roughed up in the past three months after it issued a profit warning and subsequently reported disappointing sales and earnings.

    Last quarter, Novell checked in with a profit of $31 million, or 9 cents a share, on sales of $302 million.

    Also keep an eye out for earnings from Network Appliance (Nasdaq: NTAP) and Books-A-Million (Nasdaq: BAMM).