The Night Watch: Nortel, Agilent Give Investors Two Reasons to Throw an After-Hours Party

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(Updated from 7:26 p.m. EST)

Today's market did not give investors much incentive to play the after-hours game -- the

Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 151.5 points to 2875.6, its lowest level in more than a year. Needless to say, volume in extended trading was thin.

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Still, the good news is that there have been a few things to celebrate after hours, which has sent a clutch of tech stocks higher in nighttime trading. In one positive development,

Nortel

(NT)

, whose stock was hammered after the company reported third-quarter earnings, announced tonight that it expects revenue and earnings per share to grow in the low 40% range in 2000. The networking equipment company will hold a meeting with analysts in Boston tomorrow.

The networking company said it was "very confident" in its previously stated guidance of fourth-quarter earnings from operations of 26 cents a share and revenue of $8.5 billion to $8.8 billion. Overall, the company expects continued strong growth in optical, wireless and local Internet and e-business products.

Analysts expect Nortel to earn 26 cents a share in the fourth quarter and 74 cents a share for the year. They anticipate fourth-quarter revenue of $8.62 billion and revenue for the year of $30.16 billion. (

TheStreet.com

covered Nortel's news in a separate

article .)

In post-close trading, shares of Nortel advanced 50 cents, or 1.4%, to $35.75 on Instinet.

Another event tech investors were celebrating tonight:

Agilent Technologies

(A) - Get Report

announced very strong first-quarter earnings after the closing bell. The news sent its stock up $1.63, or 3.6%, to $46.25 on Instinet.

Thanks to strength in its communications market, the electronics testing and manufacturing company announced earnings of 66 cents, topping the

First Call/Thomson Financial

estimate of 53 cents and the year-ago 39-cent result. (For a fuller account of Agilent's earnings announcement, see

TSC's

separate take.)

Meantime, some of the stocks that got hammered during the regular session saw a bit of a reprieve after hours.

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

, one of the main casualties in today's technology bloodbath, got a little first aid from post-close investors.

Shares of the enterprise software manufacturer climbed 25 cents, or 1%, to $25 on

Instinet

; Oracle was also the platform's most-active stock. The tech stock lifted 19 cents, or 0.76%, to $24.94 on Island. On Friday evening, the company announced that Executive Vice President Gary Bloom was leaving to become CEO of

Veritas

(VRTS) - Get Report

. The news hit the stock hard, since there was rampant speculation that Bloom had been being groomed to succeed Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. (

TheStreet.com

wrote a separate story about the

leadership change.)

Other companies that have returned, like boomerangs, to the after-hours spotlight include

Cisco Systems

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Juniper Networks

(JNPR) - Get Report

. But though these are familiar names on the after-hours most-actives list, the stocks top the charts tonight thanks to daytime downgrades.

This morning,

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

hacked its outlook on a trio of networking stocks, including Cisco and Juniper. As a result, shares of the former dropped 2.84% during regular trading, while the latter's stock fell 21.1%. On the after-hours market, Cisco gained 2 cents, or 0.03%, to $51.27 on Island and added 14 cents, or 0.3%, to $51.39 on Instinet. Juniper, meantime, extended its losses by 38 cents, or 0.3%, to $121.50 on Instinet but lifted 50 cents, or 0.4%, to $122.38 on Island.

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 7 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.