Off-Hours Trading: Economics 101 -- Let Alan Speak

Markets look to continue moving higher as futures are a bit firmer.
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Now here's this morning's lesson. Pens at the ready? Here we go. If we could just get

Alan Greenspan

to speak everyday, then the stock market would have no problems.

That's it. This is the kind of stuff that takes those fancy-pants economists about 20 years to learn. And you get it here.

For free.

Don't bother to thank us, we can feel the love.

Of course, we would have to make sure Big Al wouldn't get into all that "irrational exuberance" business, but other than that, the market would be fine.

Yesterday, the Fed boss spoke and the market (with the exception of the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

) liked what he had to say. How much did the market like it? Well, looky here.

This morning, futures were suggesting a slightly stronger opening as the

S&P 500

March contract was up 0.4 to 1365.6. Fair value has been calculated at -1.1. The thinly traded

Nasdaq 100

March contract was quoted up 5.3 to 4192.80.

Several stocks in the news will be looking to make a move in early action.

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, which soared about 18 yesterday was in dumps this morning, according to

Instinet

. According to a story in

The Wall Street Journal Europe

, the government of China may be giving the company a harder-than-expected time in bringing cellular technology into the country.

Also this morning,

America Online

(AOL)

, which had a nice day yesterday after a fawning report from

Merrill Lynch

on the company's merger with

Time Warner

(TWX)

, was continuing to rise and was recently quoted up 1 1/2 to 58 1/4.

Merger partners

Alcatel

(ALA)

and

Newbridge Networks

(NN)

also looked to move higher this morning as

Instinet

had both stocks either trading or bid higher.

At 8:30 a.m. EST, January durable goods orders will be released by the Census Bureau. Economists are forecasting a 1.4% decline for the month after December's reading showed a 5.5% increase.

Last Night's After-Hours Trading

By Eric Gillin
Editorial Assistant

Peer pressure was always a major concern of high school guidance counselors, who felt it could make teenagers jump off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Tonight, peer pressure caught up with

Summit Technology

(BEAM)

.

No, it didn't take a fateful leap, but it did follow the lead of a rival vision-correction outfit and lower the royalty collected on laser surgery to $100 from $250. Yesterday,

Visx

(VISX)

did the same thing in hopes that lower prices will expand market share.

Last night, Visx got killed on the news that it would lower its royalty fees. Investors and analysts screamed that it would kill a vital source of revenue for the company. Today, both eye laser makers were cut by

Lehman Brothers

analyst David Gruber, who was pretty unhappy. How unhappy?

Very.

He slashed the Visx price target to 14 from 60 and dropped Summit's price target to 18 from 25.

During the day, both stocks fell on the downgrade. Visx dropped 5 9/16, or 25%, to 16 5/16, while Summit fell 4 1/4, or 35%, to 7 13/16.

Things were different this evening. Investors have seen the light and flocked to the pair. Visx rose 1 1/4 to 17 9/16 on 401,000 shares, while Summit rose 1 9/32 to 9 1/32 on 599,000 shares.

Late in the day session,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

came on stronger than a showroom salesman during the opening minutes of a "Toyotathon" sales event. The company pushed its 52-week-high deeper and deeper into record territory on news that it would be working with

Tekelec

(TKLC)

to help fuse networking gear with existing telephony. The hope is that Cisco and other competitors, such as

Lucent

(LU)

and

Nortel

(NT)

, will be able to increase productivity and performance by using digital technology.

After the news hit the Street, traders promptly swept into both companies. Cisco and Tekelec each closed at new records, with Tekelec ending up 6 31/32, or 19%, to 43 3/8. Cisco rode a wild momentum swing in the final hour to conclude plus 14 11/16, or 12%, to 138 5/8. It traded 17.9 million shares from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST, 43% of its daylong trading volume.

Some of this momentum carried over into the postclose session and then quickly waned. At last check Cisco was off 1 9/16 to 137 on 250,000 shares, good enough to land it at the No. 6 most-active spot. Orders in the networking giant were a fairly healthy 1,048, but liquidity was a problem, despite all the orders. Buy orders dominated sellers by a 2-to-1 margin, but the gap between the two was wide. Most sellers lurk north of 139, while buyers hope to get lucky below 135.

priceline.com

(PCLN)

investors named their own stock price after hours. The e-tailer rose 5 to 56 3/8 on 87,000 shares. After the bell, priceline.com announced that Heidi Miller, former

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

CFO, would become the company's new CFO.

Investors acted like the company found a replacement for

William Shatner

, adding more to its day session gain of 1 3/4, or 4%, to 51 7/8.

Elsewhere on the large-cap front,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

took a cold shower after its hot day, while

Chemdex

(CMDX)

joined the frigid fray.

Qualcomm was last off 3 13/16 to 143 1/16 on 123,000 shares on Island, giving back some of its gain of 16 5/16, or 13%, to 146 7/8. During the day, Super Q was one of Nasdaq's biggest point gainers.

Chemdex wasn't one of the Nasdaq's biggest point gainers. It

was

the Nasdaq's biggest point gainer, gaining 45 1/4, or 29%, to 200 1/2, on news that it would be rechristening itself

Ventro

and joining the B2B fray. Tonight, the heat subsided and the company soon to be known as Ventro dropped 3 7/16 to 197 1/16 on 41,000 shares, reversing gains from earlier in the postclose session.

Curious about Ventro?

Adam Lashinsky's

piece from earlier today is the perfect place to get more in-depth information on the Chemdex crossover.

John McCain's

got some momentum -- last night's victory in Michigan's not-entirely-Republican primary proved that. But biotechs have more momentum than any presidential candidate running.

With sector interest at a fever pitch, investors are scraping to find undiscovered candidates that they hope will run. Tonight's investors threw their interest into a pair of foreign micro-cap biotechs.

The first, at the top spot on Island's most-actives list, was

Xenova Group

(XNVA)

, a U.K.-based cancer fighter. The company rose 2 5/16 to 6 1/2 on 1.25 million shares, a recovery from today's day session fall of 9/16 to 4 3/16. On Friday, two trading days ago, interest in the company hit a fever pitch and shares closed up almost 5 points to 7 5/8. Since then, it has eased significantly.

The second baby biotech was down at the No. 9 spot.

Senetek

(SNTKY)

, another British biotech, eased 1/4 to 3 1/2 on 220,000 shares. Unlike Xenova, this Brit hopped during the day session, gaining 1 1/16, or 42%, to 3 5/8.

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's (MWD) Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Online, Mellon Bank's (MEL) Dreyfus Brokerage Services and clients of Salomon Smith Barney. It is also available to clients of Mydiscountbroker.com, CyBerCorp and Interactive Brokers. 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.

Confused?

TheStreet.com

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