Off-Hours Trading: Market Carrying Positive Tone Ahead of Jobs Report

The 8:30 a.m. EST jobs release could render the move irrelevant, but the futures are indicating modest strength.
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The U.S. market has a positive tone in the very early going this morning, but that could all change -- or strengthen further -- upon the 8:30 a.m. EST release of the January

employment report

. (For forecasts on the report's components, see

TSC's

Economic Databank.)

The

S&P 500

futures on

Globex

lately were up a fraction to 1436.6, a few points above fair value. The thinly traded

Nasdaq 100

futures were down 10.5 to 3882.

The major corporate news of the day, the confirmation of the

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

-

Mannesmann

(MNNSY)

megamerger, wasn't yet moving either stock in

Instinet

trading. Vodafone reportedly has shed more than 1% in London trading, while Mannesmann was a bit higher.

The U.K.'s

FTSE 100

lately was off 1.8%, but the

CAC 40

in Paris was continuing its recent run, up 1.5%. The German

Xetra Dax

was up 0.2%.

Last Night's After-Hours Trading

By Eric Gillin
Editorial Assistant

Extra! Extra!

Pacific Aerospace & Electronics

(PCTH)

Produces World's Smallest Discoidal Capacitor!

Granted, it doesn't seem like an adrenaline pumper at first glance. At best, it might be a nice challenge for the

Guinness Book

people. First impressions lie. As a result of this announcement, the company traded up 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 on

2.3 million

shares on

Island

ECN.

Someone's adrenal gland throbbed out there.

Around 3 p.m., the Washington-based high-tech electronics maker announced that it developed the world's smallest discoidal capacitor. These tiny devices are used to filter out electrical interference noise from sensitive electronic circuits. They're used in everything from commercial satellites to implanted medical devices.

The company singled out this last category in its press release, due to the small size of the discoidal capacitors, which are only .03 inches thick -- smaller than the tip of a ballpoint pen.

The stock rose 11/16, or 55%, to 1 31/32 during the day session on 2.4 million shares, with the majority of that action happening in the last hour after the release.

Metrocall

(MCLL)

edged up 45/64 to 7 on 780,000 shares on Island after announcing it had more Sugar Daddies than the bottom of trick-or-treater's bag.

The company, which provides wireless messaging services, announced before today's opening bell that

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

would become its biggest shareholder, while three other companies invested $51 million in the company.

As a result, Metrocall rose 4 5/16, or 215.6%, to 6 5/16 on 56.3 million shares making it the most actively traded

Nasdaq

-issue during today's day session.

AT&T Wireless Services

, an AT&T unit, will become Metrocall's biggest shareholder, with 19.9% of the common stock. Per the terms of the deal, AT&T agreed to swap $105 million in Metrocall Series-C preferred stock, which lack voting rights, for 13.3 million common shares, which have voting rights. Essentially, AT&T converted shares of its stock, furthering its ongoing relationship with Metrocall.

Metrocall also announced a separate deal with AT&T Wireless, purchasing

NationPage

from the AT&T unit for $13 million in cash.

Metrocall vice president Paul Liberty said the NationPage acquisition was separate from AT&T's decision to convert stock. Back in October 1998, Metrocall purchased AT&T unit

Advanced Messaging Division

. According to Liberty, as part of the deal, the company received "first right of refusal," which means it has the first chance to buy any paging companies that AT&T decides to sell. AT&T decided to sell NationPage and Liberty said Metrocall exercised its first right of refusal.

"If AT&T is going to sell it," he said. "Then we get the first right to pick it up."

The two companies remain close allies, according to Liberty, and will continue to cross promote products.

"AT&T and Metrocall have a very strong partnership," he said. "They sell Metrocall branded stuff in their stores and we sell their Digital One Rate plan."

In addition to the AT&T deal, Metrocall also said

PSINet

; investment firm

Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst

and a "mystery partner" each bought 7.8 million common shares, which each amounts to 9.9% of the company. Each investor will pay $2.19 a share for the stake, or a total of $17 million.

Mystery partner?

Evidently. In a press release from earlier today, the unnamed investor was described as "a third party who is a significant strategic technology company."

Who was it? Liberty wasn't at, uh,

liberty

to reveal the third investor. Not now anyway.

"We will be announcing that in the near future," he said.

With small-caps firmly entrenched in the top half of Island's most active chart, tech stocks clung to the bottom half. Here's a quick roundup of how those fared:

The air seeped from

Amazon.com's

(AMZN) - Get Report

big day. It eased 3/16 to 83 13/16 on 80,000 shares after gaining 21% during the day.

The night does not belong to Michelob. It belongs to Internet plays.

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

rose 2 7/16 to 362 15/16 on 72,000 shares. Online grocer

Webvan

(WBVN)

delivered the goods, gaining 1 1/2 to 16 1/2 on 64,000 shares.

Cnet

(CNET) - Get Report

fell 1/16 to 52 on 56,000 shares.

B2B play

Internet Capital

(ICGE)

rose 3 3/8 to 133 on 56,000 shares while

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

rose 1/4 to 57 on 38,000 shares.

Super Q continued to fly.

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

rose 21/64 to 139 1/2 on 86,000 shares.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

rose 3/8 to 118 1/8 on 34,000 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. 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.