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MARKET PREVIEW: Can Oracle inspire techs?

Investors will be on edge Wednesday to see if Oracle's better-than-expected earnings can reverse a tech downturn. Asian and European markets were down, and the Dow is set to open slightly higher.

U.S.

An 80 percent surge in third-quarter earnings from the world's second-biggest software producer, Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL) could help techs pull out of their decline.

Biotechnology stocks may continue to drag the Nasdaq down though, after President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed that gene mapping data should be made public - a move that would open many companies' grip on research and profits.

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) could also get attention after reports that the two companies might merge, or that Yahoo! might acquire eBay. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition reported there was a "50-50" chance of a deal, but the Financial Times Web site said early Wednesday that discussions have collapsed.

On the IPO front, Loudeye Technologies (Nasdaq: LOUD), provider of software and services for converting traditional media into digital content, priced at $16.

In economic news, reports on industrial production and capacity utilization are due. Industrial production is expected to have risen 0.6 percent in February after growing 1 percent in January. Capacity utilization, which tracks the speed at which factories operate, is predicted to have risen to 81.9 percent from 81.6 percent.

Expect the following technology stocks to be among Wednesday's most actively traded issues: Advanced Fibre, E.piphany, Oracle, Ramtron and Verity.

Technology investors finally cashed in some of their profits, particularly in the biotech sector, Tuesday as the Nasdaq composite plunged 200 points to 4,706.88. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 136 points to end at 9,811.24.

At the Bell

The Dow Jones industrial average may open about 23 points higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was up 3.2 points to 1383 at 7:39 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.

The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index was down 24 to 633.71.

Asia

Trading in Asia was on a downswing. The Nikkei 225 slipped 0.33 percent to 19,078, Singapore's Strait Times index lost 1.53 percent to 2,022 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.07 percent to 16,747.

Europe

European markets were also moving down. London's FTSE 100 fell 1.32 percent to 6,401. The CAC 40 in Paris dropped 2.57 percent to 6,187 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt was down 2.39 percent to 7,467 at 7:04 a.m. EST.

Reuters contributed to this report.