Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

is being encouraged by some analysts and investors to use part of its $36 billion hoard of cash and short-term securities to start paying dividends, according to a report in

The Wall Street Journal

.

Earnings Reports & Outlooks

Metalink

(MTLK)

said it expects fourth-quarter revenue of about $1.7 million, up 40% from the third quarter. The company said visibility has improved among some of its customers. The Israel-based semiconductor maker said it expects its book-to-bill ratio to be "well above 1" in the quarter, citing success in some emerging technology markets, including broadband.

Analyst Actions

Robertson Stephens lowered its investment rating on

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

to buy from strong buy, citing the recent appreciation in the online auctioneer's stock price. The firm also said eBay's future investments in business and marketing could cut into margins. Still, the firm raised its target price on the company's stock and increased its fourth-quarter earnings estimate by a penny.

Prudential downgraded

Kmart

(KM)

to sell from hold and raised

Dollar General

(DG) - Get Report

to hold from sell.

Miscellaneous News

Level 3 Communications

(LVLT)

was selected to serve as the primary provider of broadband services for Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment's Screenblast. Screenblast is a Web site that allows users with high-speed Internet access to create and view audio and video content.

OfficeMax

(OMX)

named Michael F. Killeen chief financial officer following the resignation of Jeffrey P. Freimark, who accepted a senior level executive position outside of retailing.

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

said code division multiple access operators in North America have started receiving volume shipments of a range of third-generation CDMA2000 1X products, including Internet-enabled handsets, data cards and data modules.