Off-Hours Trading: Stocks Look to Open Weaker; Focus on Earnings

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and FedEx slated to report quarterly results today.
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The stock market was looking to open with a slightly weaker tone this morning after yesterday's tech rally drove the Nasdaq Composite Index to its fifth best day on record.

The Comp ended trading up about 153 points as "Nasdaq 5000" is back in the market's sights. While the

Dow

ended yesterday's session off about 40 points, there were some pockets of tech strength in that index as well.

In preopening futures trading, the

S&P 500

June contract was recently down 4.9 to 1512.80. With fair value measured at 0.94, the opening isn't looking too good. The thinly traded

Nasdaq 100

June contract was quoted down 30 to 4590.

The stock market will absorb a few more earnings today as

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

(MWD)

,

FedEx

(FDX) - Get Report

and

Darden Restaurants

(DRI) - Get Report

are scheduled to report today.

Another name worth watching today will be

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

. Redmond, Washington's favorite taxpayer is reportedly nearing a deal with the government, according to a story this morning in

The Wall Street Journal

. The article said it appears as if a break-up of the computer giant has been taken off the table in order to get this deal done.

Last Night's After-Hours Trading

By Eric Gillin
Staff Reporter

What do

Pete Rose

,

Mariano Rivera

and

Biogen

(BGEN)

have in common?

All three have been burned by arbitration rulings.

Just after the bell, Biogen announced that an arbitration panel delivered some disappointing news, adding to the selling after a great day session. According to the ruling,

Schering-Plough's

(SGP)

Rebetron was not considered to be a combination product, ending Biogen's claim that Schering-Plough was underpaying royalties.

At last check, Biogen was off 3 3/8 to 78 1/8 on 40,000 shares on

Island

and down 3 1/2 to 78 on 88,000 shares on

Instinet

. These moves were the result of the ruling and overeager profit taking in the wake of a day session gain of 3 3/8, or 4.3%, to 81 1/2.

Biogen said the ruling, which ends a 15-month legal battle, won't affect its finances in the least. That makes sense, considering the biotech giant was suing Schering-Plough over additional royalties it felt were due, not royalties it hadn't received.

Biogen already receives royalties from Schering-Plough because its Intron A is a part of the Rebetron drug. At issue was whether Rebetron was a combination product, since it contained a Biogen component. If Rebetron was found to be a combination drug, then Schering-Plough would have to pay additional royalties.

But Schering-Plough won't. Pete Rose won't. And Rivera's 2000 paycheck is only $7.25 million.

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

?

Still Rambunctious!

Like a trucker on a

Waffle House

stool after a three-day cross-country marathon haul, investors were still hungry for the chipmaker, taking it any way they could. Scattered, smashed, splattered -- it simply didn't matter. It was last up 11 to 361 on 37,000 shares on Island after gaining 83 25/32, or 31.4%, to 350 3/8 during the day.

Today's day-session vault came courtesy of

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

analyst Mark Edelstone, who set a new Rambus price target of $500. Rambus' bread and butter is speeding up memory chips so they can stay apace with microprocessors. These faster chip designs are licensed out and the company takes royalties in.

Edelstone made comments that were bullish about that Rambus business model. "They will probably end up becoming one of the highest profit margins ever enjoyed by a semicondcutor-based company," he wrote.

Just because Biogen had an off night didn't mean the rest of the sector went to bed early. A pair of biotech plays shot up on the release of financial results.

U.S. Oncology

(USON)

said its fourth-quarter earnings were 19 cents, beating the 15-cent

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate and last year's 16 cents.

As a result U.S. Oncology got a boost in after-hours gaining 1 1/16 to 5 13/16 on 142,000 shares on Island, good enough to make it the fourth-most active issue.

Genome Therapeutics

(GENE) - Get Report

was in a similar situation after releasing the results of its second quarter, which came in flat vs. last year's 7-cent cent loss. One analyst called for a 4-cent loss.

It was last up 1 3/8 to 37 on 18,000 shares on Island.

My man! Slip me some skin!

IFS International

(IFSH)

slapped palms with Australian e-commerce play

Data Card Systems

, creating a global marketing partnership. The duo's main area of interest will be a new venture called PosPay, which would enable electronic banking payments to be made via the Internet.

Late night lurkers cheered, sending IFS up 1 27/32 to 7 31/32 on 470,000 shares on Island ECN, making it the most actively traded issue.

And those of you who are keeping a close eye on the tables down there will notice some very strange movement in

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

on Instinet. At 6:30 p.m. EST, the company was off more than 8 points at 50. Why? No news was released from the company and it last traded above 57 on both Island and

Archipelago

.

Fear not. Although Instinet officials could not be reached for comment, smart money says that thin after-hours volume resulted in a fluke close. Someone might've pocketed Dell at 50. But everyone certainly didn't.

This information is provided by Instinet, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reuters (RTRSY) . For further information, please contact Instinet at www.instinet.com.

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

.

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.