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Ah, Friday! When a young reporter's thoughts drift to large pints of frothy beverages, perfect nine irons to the green and late wake-up calls.

But for today, it's back at it. The market is looking to open on a relatively subdued note, as trading of futures were indicating a modestly firmer tone in stocks, but not by a lot.

Recently, the S&P 500 March contract was quoted up 4.3 to 1423.50. With fair value measured at 3.03, things look slightly bullish. The thinly traded Nasdaq 100 March contract was recently quoted up 11 to 4123.

This morning, the normally silent streets surrounding's

home base were rocked by an explosion at about 4:30 a.m. EST at

Barclay's Bank

at the corner of Wall Street and Water Street.

It didn't look like anyone was hurt by the blast, but some windows were blown out, traffic was starting to back up, and the police have started to close off some streets down in the Wall Street area. Our friends in's

joint newsroom are on the case and will be filing a story to the site soon.

It was unclear how the untimely passing of comic legend

Jim Varney

will move the stock market this morning, but it's pretty clear the world will not be the same without all that "Hey Vern" business.

The earnings cavalcade seems to have just about finished its trip through the market, as



is the only major name slated to report today. Mmmmm, Wendy's.

Also this morning, January retail sales is scheduled to be released.

Last Night's After-Hours Trading

By Eric Gillin
Editorial Assistant



was soggy after releasing earnings. It wasn't flooded by losses, or surfing in gains. It was squishy and sloppy and only slightly lower.

Dell announced earnings of 16 cents a share, a penny better than the restated

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate. Ahead of the release, shares in the boxmaker were only slightly higher. Then the sentiment turned, driving the stock lower on


ECN. It was last off 3/4 to 37 15/16 on 580,000 shares.

Orders in Dell have been a fairly heavy 1,880, which means that the interest is there. The matching bids aren't. Sell orders are roughly double buy orders, with the vast majority of sellers above 38.

The original analyst estimate of 21 cents a share was scrapped shortly after Dell warned about its fourth quarter

a few weeks ago. After the warning, Dell's market performance has been fairly lackluster. Discounting today's optimistic gain of 3 15/64, or 9.1%, to 38 51/64, Dell has dropped 5.6% since Jan. 26.

It's deja vu all over again. Dell

warned about its third quarter as well, missing original expectations by 2 cents and

finishing in line with revisions. The first half of the year was also partly cloudy, with second-quarter earnings the

silver lining to

tepid first-quarter earnings.

Along with the earnings, Dell made a bunch of other announcements regarding its fourth quarter. Net profits grew 3% to $436, inline with lowered expectations. Revenue grew 31% to $6.8 billion, which was good but not good enough. That number came in at lowered expectations, but was not inline with Dell's prior performance, which usually had a revenue growth rate of 50%.

Dell's international and Internet revenues were up. Asia revenues rose 56% while European revenues inched 8% higher. The company also announced that nearly 50% of its revenue came through

, its e-tailing arm.

Late-night staple



rose 3 7/8 to 7 7/8 on 2.2 million shares after announcing the results of its second quarter. Earnings came in at 6 cents a share, beating last year's 12-cent loss. Analysts don't cover the small electronics maker, which has a market cap of just $25.22 million.

The company said revenue increased nearly 300%, to $1.7 million from $590,000.

Even Conolog's warrants


have gotten in on the act. These traded at the No. 2 most-active spot on Island, gaining 1 11/32 to 2 1/8 on 940,000 warrants.

Warrants are a security allowing the holder to buy the underlying stock at a given strike price. Investors usually shy from trading in warrants because of their volatility. In Conolog's case, the warrants expire Aug. 2, 2002, and have a strike price of $6, which means that investors can buy a Conolog share at $6 each for every warrant held.

These warrants can be a risky proposition, however, especially if the underlying common shares experience a downturn.


has some changes in store. The after-hours trading network will be extending its hours in a month or two to the regular trading day and add a morning session that begins at 6 a.m., putting total hours at 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Like the other nine electronic communication networks out there, MarketXT hopes that being part of the


system will drive traffic to it.

Liquidity, after all, is what it's all about. Hoping to boost volumes that have been very thin since it started up last fall, the trading network also said Thursday it will be taken over by


, a daytrading and direct access trading firm. Here's how much this could change things: So far this year, MarketXT has done around 70,000 trades, while Tradescape did over 150,000 trades every day in December. Tradescape will try to match orders in the MarketXT system but will go to a competing system if it can't get a match.

And there's money in the works too.


, which owns a stake in Tradescape, is going to raise $100 million for MarketXT and Tradescape.


Caroline Humer

Island ECN, owned by Datek Online, offers trading, mainly in Nasdaq-listed stocks, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.


MarketXT, formerly Eclipse Trading, offers after-hours trading to retail clients of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter'sundefinedMorgan Stanley Dean Witter Online, Mellon Bank'sundefinedDreyfus Brokerage Services and clients of Salomon Smith Barney. Clients can trade 200 of the most actively traded New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market issues, 4:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday.


explains how the rules change when the sun goes down in Investing Basics: Night Owl, a section devoted to after-hours trading.