Markets Look Set for Flattish Open

European markets, along with the S&P 500 futures, were lately firming.
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Investors who sent the market down yesterday afternoon aren't necessarily ready to change their strategy this morning. But some late firming in the futures market has things looking better for stocks than they did an hour ago.

At 9:05 a.m. EDT, after having been solidly underwater earlier, the

S&P 500

futures were up 2.3, a couple of points below fair value and indicating a slight inclination toward the downside.

The bond market may be emboldening the futures some. The 30-year Treasury was lately up 23/32 to 97 10/32, putting the yield at a still-sizable but nonetheless slimmer 6.326%. The December bond futures contract was up 20/32 to 111 15/32.

Earnings season rolls on. But

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

notwithstanding, a generally strong earnings season hasn't compelled much money to come off the sidelines thus far. Last night that trend continued, as

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

got absolutely

hammered in after-hours trading despite beating earnings

expectations.

"Internet stocks are obviously getting stung here," said Dan Mathisson, head stock trader at

D.E. Shaw Securities

. "The market's disappointed with eBay's earnings, and it looks like it's going to vegetate all through the sector."

Mathisson said that the rest of the tech sector was looking "down, but not a lot. But it may get pretty nasty in the Internet sector."

Qwest

(QWST)

is already out this morning with in-line earnings. Today's schedule will culminate with Net bellwether

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, which is scheduled to report earnings today.

The day's biggest economic data are in: After rising 1.2% the previous month,

durable goods orders

figures fell 1.3% in September, more than the 0.4% decrease expected by economists polled by

Reuters

. Later this afternoon, the

Treasury Department

will auction off $15 billion in two-year notes.

In Tokyo, export-oriented stocks came under pressure from the yen's overnight gains against the dollar. The greenback fell from around 104.8 yen to below the 104-yen level, and that helped send the

Nikkei

down 289.43, or 1.6%, to 17,382.36.

The dollar was lately quoted at 104.13 yen.

The yen made its advances amid the release of the government's industrial production index, which came in at 101.1 for September, 0.8% below the previous month and the first decline in two months. That fall-off was slightly less than expected, and with August output up 4.4%, industrial production for the July-September period gained a stout 3.8%.

Meanwhile, September Japanese retail sales fell 2% on a year-over-year basis, the 30th straight month of decline.

No fireworks came out of the

Bank of Japan's

policy board meeting. As expected, the BOJ voted to leave its zero interest rate policy unchanged. The central bank also gave only a rough sketch of its plan to step up outright purchases of short-term government debt. Depending on financial conditions, the BOJ will start those operations sometime in mid-November.

Wall Street's weakness yesterday didn't help Hong Kong stocks, which sold off for the second straight session, the

Hang Seng

sinking 88.31, or 0.7%, to 12,709.07.

The

European Central Bank

released its much-anticipated euro-zone M3 money supply figures this morning. The ECB said that M3 grew by 6.1% on a year-over-year basis in September, up from August's 5.7% rate, and fast enough to raise fears of a rate hike on Nov. 4.

That sent the big euro-zone bourses tumbling, but they've since stabilized. The Paris

CAC

was lately off 9.54 to 4697.05, while Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

was down 17.04, or 0.3%, to 5371.72. Going along for the ride, London's

FTSE

was 37.5 lower, or 0.7%, to 6054.9.

The euro initially strengthened on the ECB report, quickly moving up from the $1.058 level to $1.0636, but then fading. The euro was lately quoted at $1.0546.

Wednesday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Tara Murphy

Staff Reporter

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Allegheny Teledyne

(ALT) - Get Report

reported third-quarter earnings of 23 cents a share, beating the nine-analyst estimate of 18 cents, but down from the year-ago 33 cents.

Compaq

(CPQ)

was trading at 20 1/8 in premarket activity, up from Tuesday's closing price of 19 15/16, after it posted third-quarter operating earnings of 7 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the 31-analyst estimate and unchanged from the year-ago period.

TSC

wrote about Compaq's earnings in a

story last night.

Conseco

(CNC) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 73 cents a share, in line with the seven-analyst estimate but down from the year-ago 90 cents.

In premarket activity, online auctioneer

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

was trading at 139, down from Tuesday's closing price of 152, after it posted third-quarter earnings, excluding certain noncash charges, of 2 cents a share. That beat the 19-analyst

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate by a penny but missed Wall Street's so-called whisper number. Today,

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

reiterated its outperform rating on the stock.

TheStreet.com

wrote about eBay's earnings in a

story Tuesday.

Engelhard

(EC) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share, which includes gains from a sale. The report beat both the nine-analyst estimate of 36 cents and the year-ago 31 cents.

1-800-Flowers.com

(FLWS) - Get Report

posted a first-quarter loss of 31 cents a share, narrower than the two-analyst estimate of a 36-cent loss but wider than the year-ago 5-cent loss.

Nu Skin

(NUS) - Get Report

posted third-quarter earnings of 24 cents a share, in line with the five-analyst estimate but down from the year-ago 30 cents.

Jones Apparel

(JNY)

reported third-quarter earnings of 75 cents a share, beating both the 15-analyst estimate of 72 cents and the year-ago 57 cents.

Qwest Communications

(QWST)

posted third-quarter earnings of 3 cents a share, in line with the 20-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago pro forma loss of 2 cents.

Offerings and stock action

Credit Suisse First Boston

priced a 6.5 million-share IPO for

InterTrust Technologies

(ITRU)

at $18 a share, above its $15-to-$17 range.

Navistar

(NAV) - Get Report

said it has set a share buyback worth up to $243 million.

United HealthCare

(UNH) - Get Report

said that it has renewed a share-buyback plan for up to 10% of the company's stock.

Analyst actions

J.P. Morgan

rolled out coverage of

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

with a long-term buy rating.

J.P. Morgan upgraded shares of

Nortel Networks

(NT)

to a buy from a hold. Last night, Nortel posted third-quarter earnings before items of 28 cents a share, 2 cents ahead of the 22-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 21 cents, which excludes items.

Warburg Dillon Read

upped its rating on

Owens Corning

(OWC)

to a buy from a hold.

Merrill Lynch

started coverage of

Williams Communications

(WCG) - Get Report

with intermediate-term-accumulate and long-term-buy ratings.

Miscellany

The

Nasdaq Stock Market

is mapping out plans to roll out a pan-European stock market in early 2001, which would be known as

Nasdaq Europe

,

The Wall Street Journal

reported. According to the

Journal

, the initiative's success is "not ensured."