Today's the monthly expiration of options on stocks and index futures, and though that is often a recipe for volatility, it looks like things will start off pretty steady this morning.

Stocks are cued for a bit of strength at the open. At 9 a.m. EDT, the

S&P 500

futures were up 2, having closed near fair value. If there is volatility, it will come later in the day, as people cut out of the office and trading gets thin.

Though generally pleased with the earnings coming in, many investors are pretty much sitting on their hands until next Thursday, when

Fed

Chairman

Alan Greenspan

will give his semiannual

Humphrey-Hawkins

testimony before Congress. Wall Street expects Big Al will clear up the uncertainty on whether the Fed will tighten or stay pat at the August meeting.

"It's the excuse of waiting for the Fed," said Jim Volk, co-director of institutional trading at

D.A. Davidson

of the relative inaction. Economists have lately been flip-flopping on what the Fed is going to do, he added. "If the inflation numbers stay low and the economy doesn't really heat up, we're moving toward a Fed that stays on hold."

Rising tensions between mainland China and Taiwan may play a factor in the stock and bond markets today. Taiwan remains determined to abandon the "one China" policy that has kept the region relatively peaceful since 1949. The 30-year Treasury has seen something of a flight-to-quality bid on reports of Chinese military exercises in Fujian province, across the strait from Taiwan. It was lately up 13/32 to 91 3/32, putting the yield at 5.89%.

The Taiwan and Hong Kong stock markets both sold off today on worries that big trouble is brewing. The

Taiwan Stock Exchange Weighted Price

index fell 506.46, or 6.4%, to 7411.58. Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

fell 213.65, or 1.5%, to 13,545.24.

Tokyo traders, wary of the possible Sino-Taiwanese trouble, took profits going into the weekend. The

Nikkei

dropped 183.56, or 1%, to 18,248.30. Shares of

Softbank

led a decline in tech shares after

Warburg Dillon Read

cut its rating on the company to sell from hold.

European stocks had lately turned positive. In Frankfurt, the

Xetra Dax

was up 3.72 to 5622.98. In Paris, the

CAC

was up 2.75 to 4668.42. And in London, the

FTSE

was up 2 to 6577.

Friday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Brian Louis

Staff Reporter

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

(Earnings estimates are from

First Call

.)

Air Products and Chemicals

(APD) - Get Report

warned it anticipates its fiscal third-quarter earnings will be below last year's earnings and analysts' expectations. The company, which plans to release its third-quarter results on July 23, expects earnings to be approximately 48 cents a share, excluding a charge of 4 cents a share for workforce reduction. The 12-analyst estimate expected the company to earn 56 cents.

Caterpillar

(CAT) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings of 78 cents a share, missing the 20-analyst estimate of 80 cents and down from the year-ago $1.20. The Peoria, Ill.-based company said it expects full-year 1999 sales and revenue to be slightly below 1998. Profit per share is expected to be 20% to 25% less than 1998, Caterpillar said.

Gillette

(G) - Get Report

reported second-quarter earnings after the close in line with analysts' lowered estimates. The razor-blade maker earned 26 cents a share, matching the 13-analyst view but falling below the year-ago 33 cents.

Newport News Shipbuilding

(NNS)

posted second-quarter earnings of 55 cents a share, excluding one-time items, above the two-analyst estimate of 52 cents and up from the year-ago 45 cents

Potlatch

(PCH) - Get Report

posted second-quarter earnings of 33 cents a share, beating the three-analyst estimate of 30 cents, but down from the year-ago 35 cents.

Tribune

(TRB)

posted second-quarter earnings of 88 cents a share, excluding nonoperating items, a penny ahead of the 14-analyst estimate and up from the year-ago 75 cents, excluding nonoperating items.

Analyst actions

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

upgraded

Alcoa

(AA) - Get Report

to strong buy from neutral.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

SBC Communications

(SBC)

has agreed to a wide-ranging marketing and distribution partnership with

DirecTV

, the big satellite broadcaster,

The New York Times

reported, citing executives close to the deal. The companies plan to announce the deal Monday at the

Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association's

convention in Las Vegas, Nev., the

Times

reported, citing the executives.

Offerings and stock actions

In new issues, last night

Bear Stearns

priced

Ravisent Technologies'

(RVST:Nasdaq) 5 million-share IPO midrange at $12. Elsewhere, last night

Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette

priced

Paradyne Networks'

(PDYN:Nasdaq) 6 million-share IPO above-range at $17.

Miscellany

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

is moving closer to creating a stock to track its

Microsoft Network

properties in an attempt to capitalize on the mania for pure-play Internet businesses,

The Wall Street Journal

reported.

Reuters

(RTRSY)

said a U.S. grand jury investigation into its

Reuters Analytics

unit ended without charges.

Business Week's

Inside Wall Street column, penned by Gene Marcial, says Jay Petschek of investment firm

Corsair Capital Partners

, thinks corporate travel management concern

Navigant International

(FLYR)

will spin off its Internet business and take it public. Petschek, who has accumulated nearly 5% of Navigant shares, believes Navigant is in discussions to form alliances with several Internet portal companies, the column says.

Elsewhere, one unidentified New York money manager, who has been buying

CyberSource

(CYBS)

stock, thinks a credit-card giant like

Visa

could be interested in acquiring CyberSource.

Take-Two Interactive Software

(TTWO) - Get Report

, a video-game company, garners positive mention in the column. Take-Two CEO Ryan Brant states that in 18 months the company's Web business will generate some $30 million in annual sales and about $100 million in three years, according to the column. Bob DeLean, an analyst at

Morgan Keegan

, thinks the company's earnings will rise 25% to 30% annually over the next five years, and he expects earnings of 62 cents this year and 80 cents in 2000, compared with 37 cents in 1998, the column says.