Markets Mixed Ahead of Key Earnings

Investor activity looked mixed in early morning trade ahead of key earnings
results from big name tech and Internet firms due out after the bell. The
tech-heavy Nasdaq leapt 73.49 to 3,967.38 following lower than expected PPI
data that eased rate hike jitters, while the Big Board headed in the
opposite direction, sagging 70.66 to 11,111.52. Across the board strength
in the Internet sector pulled the ISDEX higher by 3.54%.


Shares of Oracle jumped 3 1/8 to 84 15/16 as investors
will be closely watching for upside quarterly earnings from the world’s
second largest software firm today. The company has beaten Wall Street’s
estimates in its last three quarters and analysts are forecasting Q1
earnings at $0.13 per share expected out after the bell.


Adobe Systems tacked on 1 1/4 to 127 3/16 ahead of its
Q2 results after the bell. The desktop publishing software developer is
anticipated to report $0.52 a share. Shares of Red Hat
edged up 11/16 to 24 13/16 as investors await earnings from the open source
poster child. The company is expected to post a $0.02 per share loss for
its second quarter earnings also coming out following the bell.


Shares of Microsoft slipped 3/4 to 67 1/2, after the
software giant launched its latest version of the consumer Windows
operating system, dubbed ‘Windows Me.’ The successor to Windows 98 Second
Edition will be Redmond’s last OS based on the two decade old DOS
programming technology.


In addition, the vice president of Microsoft’s platform strategy and
developer group, Paul Maritz, announced plans to retire after 14 years with
the company. Maritz may leave best remembered for his internal e-mail memo
that took center stage in the government’s antitrust case in which he
suggested bundling Internet Explorer with the Windows OS to “cut off
Netscape’s air supply.”


In a sign that consolidation is still rampant in the e-tailing sector,
barnesandnoble.com announced plans to acquire rival
bookseller Fatbrain.com after the market close. In a
combined stock and cash deal worth $64 million, reaction to the
announcement was mixed. Shares of barnesandnoble climbed 3/8 to 4 3/4,
while Fatbrain sank 17/32 to 3 27/32 as investors chewed on the low 11.5%
premium.


Meanwhile, shares of Chinese portal Sohu.com rose 5/8
to 7 5/8, following its late Wednesday announcement to buy rival
ChinaRen.com. Sohu.com will issue 4.4 million shares in a stock deal worth
$30 million, making it the largest dot-com buyout in China’s Internet
history. The acquisition is expected to nearly double Sohu.com’s user base
to 7.8 million. Shares of its competitors climbed in sympathy on the news.
Sina.com leapt 9/16 to 21 1/2, Netease inched 5/16 to 6 1/2, while China.com
marched 1/4 to 16 1/2.


In the spirit of the Olympics starting tomorrow, Network Appliance has announced that the Australian Olympic Committee’s official
site, Olympics.com.au, will use its caching systems to speed up Web
traffic. Shares of Network Appliance rose 4 1/4 to 116 1/4. Fellow network
caching equipment maker CacheFlow soared 6 1/2 higher
to 121 5/8 by midday.

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