The Week Ahead: Earnings in sight

Old stocks aren't dead yet
Written by Larry Barrett, Contributor

Just when everyone was ready to write off blue-chip stocks, the Dow goes and stages an enormous rally. With a Fed meeting and earnings from 3Com and Micron Electronics this week, the market will have plenty of news to digest.

Last week, the Dow Jones industrial average powered up 667 points to 10,595.23 while the Nasdaq shed 251 points to 4,798.06. Investors jumped back into the so-called "old economy" stocks with a fervour, following a couple of positive economic reports.

The Producer Price Index, which shows inflation at the wholesale level, came in at 0.3 percent for February, slightly ahead of most estimates. "This is just a real awakening to the fact that the old stocks weren't dead," said Larry Rice, chief investment officer at Josephthal Lyon & Ross. "I find it incredulous that you can take a two-year bear market in the Dow and reverse it in two days. So I'm not sure this is too sustainable past another day or so before the money flows back into Nasdaq."

On Friday, the US Labor Department reported that the Consumer Price Index, the broadest inflation gauge, climbed in February by 0.5 percent, slightly exceeding expectations for a gain of 0.4 percent. But with volatile food and energy prices stripped out, the increase was in line with forecasts for a 0.2 percent gain. "I think that there seems to be an optimistic and bullish attitude, no matter what," said Trude Latimer, an independent stock strategist. "I am frankly surprised that stocks are down as well as they are. I would have thought they would be a little tired by now."

Now that the Fed's watched the Dow and Nasdaq hit new highs, lose considerable ground and then recovery again, it will be interesting to see how high interest rates will be adjusted this time around. Most analysts are expecting another one-quarter point increase, but some have suggested that the recent volatility might persuade Greenspan & Company to hold off for a couple months.

There was no holding back Oracle in its third quarter. The database software developer shattered Wall Street estimates, earning $498m (£308m), or 17 cents (11p) a share, on sales of $2.4bn (£1.4bn).

The $2.4bn in sales marks an 18 percent improvement compared to the same quarter a year ago, when it earned $277m (£171m), or 9 cents (6p) a share, on sales of $2.1bn (£1.3bn).

Looking ahead to next week, 3Com, which has watched its stock tumble in the past week, will deliver its third-quarter results. First Call consensus expects it to earn 25 cents (16p) a share in the quarter. Last quarter, it earned $131m (£81m), or 37 cents (23p) a share, on sales of $1.48bn (£920m).

Micron Electronics will also report its second quarter results. Analysts are expecting a profit of 4 cents (2p) a share, compared to a profit of 15 cents (9p) a share in its first quarter.

Also, the likes of E-machines, Snowball.com and Blaze Software will make their debuts.

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