THE WEEK AHEAD: National Semi earnings on deck

3 min read

Wall Street wrapped up the summer with strong gains this week as tame unemployment and wage data gave investors some much-needed confidence heading into the Labor Day weekend. Tech Data and National Semiconductor will report earnings next week.

For the week, the Dow Jones industrial average rallied up 46 points to 11,238.78 while the Nasdaq composite hustled up 192 points to finish at 4,234.27.

On Friday, the Labor Department reported that payrolls for August fell 105,000 versus a revised drop of 51,000 in July. Economists on average had expected a rise of 7,000.

"We believe this report confirms the economy is indeed slowing and that the choke hold that the Federal Reserve has had on the stock market now has ended," said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. "Manufacturing is slowing, consumer spending is slowing, and that tells us that the landing gear is down, the runway is in sight and we're coming in for a soft landing."

The jobs report also showed the unemployment rate edged up to a slightly higher-than-expected 4.1 percent in August versus 4.0 percent in July. Meanwhile, average hourly earnings, closely watched as a gauge of wage inflation, rose a modest 0.3 percent in August, meeting Wall Street's expectations.

"This is exactly the soft landing that (Fed Chairman) Alan Greenspan wants," said Bill Cheney, chief economist for John Hancock funds. "There is no serious wage pressure, you've got the labor market easing off a bit. It's just what the doctor ordered."

That's not to say it was all good news this week on Wall Street.

Perhaps the ugliest news came from Internet consultant Viant (Nasdaq: VIAN) which watched its stock tumble more than 36 percent Friday after it issued a profit warning.

Viant said it will take a loss in its third quarter. Sales are expected to fall between 12 percent to 15 percent from the $38.5 million it recorded in the second quarter.

First Call Corp. consensus predicted it would post a profit of 8 cents per share.

Viant blamed part of the problem on fall-out from struggling dot-coms.

"Many of our existing dot-com clients were unable to gain the additional funding they had expected to convert to follow-on projects that we were forecasting," CEO Bob Gett said in a release.

Business-to-business e-commerce stocks such as Commerce One (Nasdaq: CMRC), VerticalNet (Nasdaq: VERT) and PurchasePro.com (Nasdaq: PPRO) enjoyed a bit of a revival this week after making double-digit percentage gains.

"If you look at any of these companies individually, all of them are going to have a strong September, and people are getting a sense of that," Patrick Walravens, an analyst at Lehman Brothers, told Reuters. "People have been holding off a bit in August, and in general, this is a sector that moves very fast. There are a lot of developments in the coming weeks."

Ariba (Nasdaq: ARBA) and Commerce One will hold user conference in the next few weeks while VerticalNet and PurchasePro.com will be introducing new Web sites and software this month.

Looking ahead to next week, investors will want to see if National Semiconductor (NYSE: NSM) can build on its fantastic fourth quarter earnings report.

National Semi is expected to post a profit of 65 cents a share in its first quarter, according to First Call Corp.

Last quarter, it topped analysts' estimates when it earned $134.2 million, or 68 cents a share, on sales of $598.3 million.

Tech Data (Nasdaq: TEDCD) will also report its second-quarter results next week.

Analysts are forecasting a profit of 67 cents a share.

Tech Data posted a profit of $37.2 million, or 68 cents a share, on sales of $4.92 billion.