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Off-Hours Trading: It's All About Jobs (and We've Had Some Winners) in Today's Stock Market

Futures aren't giving much direction in early action.

Caddy. Fry cook. "Management trainee" at Foot Locker ("Just sell the shoes, son"). Flower-delivering clown, Santa or big, yellow bird.

Yeah, we've all got our job skeletons in the closet. But, right or wrong, we're all defined by our jobs. And today, it will likely be jobs that define the stock market.

While futures this morning are not suggesting a great deal about the market's early direction, the February jobs report is released at 8:30 a.m. EST.

Economists polled by

Reuters

are expecting about 206,000 nonfarm jobs to have been created during the month and for the unemployment rate to be unchanged at 4.0%. For a complete picture, take a look at

TSC's

own Elizabeth Roy's

story about the economic release.

Back to those zany futures. The

S&P 500

March contract was recently quoted down 0.60 to 1384.30. With fair value measured at -0.84, there's not a lot of direction there. The thinly traded

Nasdaq 100

March contract was up a scant 5 to 4230.

As far as stocks to watch in early action,

Instinet

is reporting a 100 bid for yesterday's belle of the ball,

Palm

(PALM)

. The stock closed at 95 1/16 yesterday after its IPO was priced at 38.

Last Night's After-Hours Trading

By Eric Gillin
Editorial Assistant

Speedy Gonzalez

couldn't say it any better.

"Andale, andale!

Ariba

(ARBA)

, arriba!"

Business-to-business play Ariba took off in after-hours trading, sprinting further ahead while other issues inched around

Island's

most-active chart. The company rose 15 3/8 to 315 on 133,000 shares after announcing a 2-for-1 stock split. This caps an already successful day session leap of 19 13/16, or 7.1%, to 299 11/16.

The split is Ariba's second in three months, the last in December. Simple mathematics show that Ariba's outstanding shares have increased fourfold in a very short time and when this just-announced one occurs, Ariba will have 184 million shares on the market.

The last time Ariba announced a 2-for-1 split, on Nov. 16, after-hours traders raced into the stock sending it up 28 5/16 to 243 7/8 on 63,000 shares. Tonight was more of the same.

The

3Com

(COMS)

/

Palm Pilot

(PALM)

saga continued after-hours, with little changed except for the time and the place.

3Com continued to slip, inching down 3/16 to 81 1/2 on 191,000 shares, while Palm Pilot gained 1 13/32 to 96 13/32 on 66,000 shares.

Another company moving after a big day was

MP3.com

(MPPP)

TST Recommends

, which eased 3 11/16 to 28 3/16 on 307,000 shares after gaining 15 5/8, or 95.4%, to 32 during the day.

The online music distributor shot up due to comments made by company CEO Michael Robertson to the

Robertson Stephens Tech 2000

conference in San Francisco. MP3.com, which had fallen 72.3% since November, is embroiled in litigation with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The company has said little publicly about RIAA's lawsuit and its subsequent countersuit. At the conference, Robertson took the opportunity to address investors, detailing the good, the bad and the ugly possibilities of the lawsuits.

And just like any song on a top 40 radio playlist, what Robertson said was music to day session ears until the affect wore off turning opinions this evening.

As usual KOOL and the gang dominated postclose trading. Micro-caps do some pretty "Funky Stuff" after-hours.

Thermogenesis

(KOOL) - Get Report

and a flock of stocks with a market cap below $300 million traded heavily, keeping micro madness alive and well. Even warrants got in on the act tonight, as daredevil denizens of Island's dark session took a chance on securities.

A big micro mover was

ESPS

(ESPS)

, a Pennsylvania-based company providing electronic compliance management solution to companies in highly regulated industries.

ESPS rose 6 9/16 to 13 11/16 on 386,000 shares on Island after announcing a deal with

Xerox

(XRX) - Get Report

. Per the terms of the deal, ESPS and Xerox will collaborate on a Web-based publishing solution, fusing the

Xerox Dossier Publisher

with ESPS'

CoreDossier

. Xerox will handle the public end, including sales, distribution and marketing, while ESPS handles the nuts and bolts like software and professional services.

The deal puts Xerox and ESPS into the same bed, with ESPS picking up the tab on some of Xerox's technology assets, while the copy company gets a seat on the micro-cap's board.

Tonight's positive mood regarding ESPS duplicates a day session euphoria that send it up 1, or 16.8%, to 6 15/16.

At the top of Island's most active list, with a market cap of $147 million was biotechie

Nymox Pharmaceutical

(NYMX) - Get Report

. The company gained 5/8 to 8 on 935,000 shares, breaking further north after gaining 1 1/16, or 16.8%, to 7 3/8 during the day session. This move is an extension of yesterday's 16% gain, which sent Nymox to a 52-week high and just south of record closing territory. Today's close is the highest since the company hit 8 3/4 during its IPO in December 1997.

So, what's all the hubbub, bub?

Yesterday, Nymox touted two recently published books that mention its screening test for Alzheimer's Disease, called AD7C. Both books present the drug in a positive light and express excitement about its ability to identify those at risk for the disease.

The aforementioned Thermogenesis, capped at $51.5 million, sat at the No. 3 spot on Island, gaining 19/32 to 3 1/32 on 631,000 shares after finishing unchanged during the day. As usual, micro-caps dominated the postclose activity along with other low-cost investments, like warrants.

Warrants, which are securities that can be cashed in at a given strike price for shares in a company, are a fairly volatile and, therefore, risky proposition. Still, that didn't scare late night lurkers away from

Escalon Medical Warrants

(ESMCW)

or

Checkers Drive-In Warrants

(CHKRW)

. Escalon warrants traded up 1/16 to 1/4 on 574,000 shares, while Checkers warrants dipped 1/64 to 7/64 on 380,000 shares.

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.