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Thu, May 11, 2000
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Stocks Are Waiting on Today's Data News
By Kristen French
Staff Reporter

5/11/00 8:16 AM ET

Stocks are looking pretty flat this morning as they dabble in the green.

At 7:40 a.m. EDT, the S&P; 500 futures were up 1.7 points, about a half a point below fair value providing little indication for the early going. The Nasdaq 100 futures were up 16 points, also providing little indication for the open.

With next week's interest-rate decision looming over the market like a big bad cloud, the market will be watching today's April import-export and retail sales numbers, to be reported at 8:30 a.m. EDT, closely. The numbers may not change market perception that a 50-basis point increase next week is definitive, since hot inflation numbers have been coming out for weeks, but they could provide some clues to what kind of rate action can be expected for the longer term.

The Federal Open Market Committee will meet on May 16 to decide on the next rate increase, and while it hasn't raised interest rates by more than 25 basis points in five years, the market thinks it may have to if its going to slow this economy.

Wall Street is expecting April retail sales growth to come in at 0.4%, on par with March, and the import price index to come in at 0.3%, also on par with March, according to Reuter's consensus poll estimates. There is no estimate for the export price index, which was 0.4% last month.

With the Nasdaq Composite Index practically matching its 3205 low for the year after Wednesday�s plunge, the market is wondering whether a bit of technology lust will return, or if there is more downside to come. At least volume was more robust yesterday than it has been all month, which could be a sign of growing "bottom" sentiment. Most market watchers say that reaching a bottom requires a selling climax with real volume. A little bounce right now might just lead to a hearty selloff and could take the indices lower.

Some say it won't be over until its over, when the Federal Reserve actually decides the economy has slowed to a reasonable trot and quits the rate-boosting game.

In any case, Wall Street will continue to watch earnings, with some big ones on the table for today. But this quarter, good earnings have not always meant happy investors. After reporting strong earnings post-close Tuesday, Cisco (CSCO:Nasdaq) tanked yesterday, closing down 4 1/4 to 58 1/2. Applied Materials reported earnings in line, with estimates post-close Wednesday and was lower in early preopen trading today.

More tech big boys are scheduled to report today, with Dell (DELL:Nasdaq) and Computer Associates (CA:NYSE), as well as retailers Gap (GPS:NYSE), Nordstrom (JWN:NYSE) and Kmart (KM:NYSE).

Meanwhile, Microsoft (MSFT:Nasdaq) is still in the news. The company submitted a counter proposal to the government's breakup plan Wednesday, suggesting set restrictions on its license agreements with computer makers.

The bond market was inching upward this morning, with the 10-year note up 1/32 to 100 18/32 and yielding 6.418%.

The large European bourses weren't too happy about Wednesday action in the U.S., but they were hanging in there near midsession. The Paris CAC was off 40.09 to 6223.25, while Frankfurt's Xetra Dax was 53.46 lower to 7067.40. Across the channel, London's FTSE was up 55.7 to 6156.3.

The euro was trading up at $0.9092.

Most Asian markets were toppled overnight by hefty Nasdaq losses yesterday, while markets in Hong Kong and Korea were closed for national holidays.

Taiwan's TWSE index, meanwhile, slipped 209.96, or 2.5%, to 8349.91.

Tokyo shares were steadily beaten to a pulp, and the Nikkei closed off 819.01 points, or 4.6%, to 16,882.46, its lowest close since September 27 of last year.

The dollar edged higher against the yen in Tokyo trading to 109.79 and was lately trading at 108.75.

For a look at stocks in the news, see Stocks to Watch, published separately.

See TheStreet.com's full site for more of its unique insider's perspective on Wall Street. Try a 30-day subscription for free!

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