Stocks Mixed Ahead of Earnings

Stocks were little changed Friday ahead of earnings reports from several tech bellwethers next week.

Given that Lucent warned, wholesale inflation spiked and retail sales were weaker than expected, the market’s ability to hold near the flat line was something of a victory for bulls.

When traders return from the three-day weekend on Tuesday, they’ll contend with earnings reports from Intel , Yahoo and IBM , followed by eBay , AMD and Apple on Wednesday.

Intel is expected to report earnings of 43 cents a share, up a dime from a year ago, on sales of $10.56 billion. Analysts will also be looking for some sign that the capacity constraints that have plagued the company for the last several quarters are easing.

IBM is expected to earn $1.94 a share, up 26 cents from the year-ago quarter, on sales of $25.5 billion. Analysts have already warned that Big Blue’s services and hardware businesses may be soft.

Yahoo will provide the quarter’s first look at the health of Internet advertising. The company is expected to earn 17 cents a share, up four cents from the year-ago quarter, on sales of $1.07 billion.

On Wednesday, analysts will be looking for eBay to report a six-cent increase in earnings to 22 cents a share, with sales coming in at $1.29 billion. Apple already pre-announced blow-out results, while AMD is expected to report a big jump in earnings to 25 cents a share.

AMD shares lost 3.5% Friday after Deutsche Bank downgraded the stock on expectations of tougher competition from Intel and dismissed speculation of a deal with Dell . Also moving Friday were HP on a Goldman Sachs upgrade, and IBM on an SEC probe.

The Nasdaq added a third of a point to 2317, the S&P 500 climbed 1 to 1287, and the Dow slipped 2 to 10,959. Volume declined to 2.2 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.78 billion on the Nasdaq. Advancers led 18-14 on the NYSE, and 16-13 on the Nasdaq. Upside volume was 45% on the NYSE, and 54% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 125-21 on the NYSE, and 128-23 on the Nasdaq.

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