Nervousness about corporate bookkeeping will undoubtedly continue to feature on Wall Street in the coming week. Analysts are increasingly hoping, however, that the paranoia clears up enough long enough for more traditional gauges of economic health to return to focus. "Considering the Dow was down every day this week before Friday, the market is looking a little oversold," said Peter Boockvar, market strategist at Miller Tabak. "Assuming there aren't any bombs dropped, we should have an upward bias next week." Post- Enron, a slew of large companies have seen their accounting come under scrutiny, sparking fears that shady accounting is inflating earnings all across corporate America. The major indices have closed lower during five of the last six sessions: between Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, the
Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.0%, the Nasdaq Composite dropped 7.8% and the S&P 500 fell 4.4%. Stocks finally rallied on Friday, with the Dow tacking on 1.2% and the Nasdaq gaining 2.1%. Some analysts say the five-day selloff was overdone. "Sell first and see if there is a problem later," was the rule on Wall Street last week, says Boockvar. And, if new accounting issues keep surfacing, the market will continue to suffer. But "the hope is that the high-profile names have already come out of the closet." If so, investors may be content to focus their scorn on the existing troubled names and spare the broader market further bloodletting, he said. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter technical analyst Jonathon Dodd said he's also "looking for some rally effort" next week, but that a move up may come on the heels of further moves down at the beginning of the week. "I would like to see stocks move down a bit more. That would set up a rally better," he said. retail sales report Wednesday, weekly jobless claims Thursday, and the January consumer sentiment index Friday, analysts said. And while fourth-quarter earnings season is almost over -- some 81% of the S&P 500 has already reported earnings this quarter -- investors will pay close attention to a trio of tech companies next week. Chip-equipment leader Applied Materials ( AMAT) reports earnings Tuesday, and PC makers Hewlett-Packard ( HWP) and Dell ( DELL) report Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Both Dell and Hewlett-Packard recently raised their guidance for the quarter ended January, citing stronger consumer demand, so the quarterly numbers shouldn't be much of a surprise. But investors will listen for word on the outlook for 2002. At the end of last month, Dell raised fourth-quarter revenue guidance to $8 billion from $7.6 billion and its earnings estimate to 17 cents a share from 16 cents. And Hewlett-Packard said last week that it now expects fiscal first-quarter revenue to beat rather than slip below the fourth quarter's $10.9 billion. The company also said it would top earnings estimates of 16 cents a share. Analysts now expect earnings of 25 cents a share for the quarter and $1.04 for the full year, on average, according to Thomson Financial. Applied Materials, meanwhile, is seen posting a penny loss for its fiscal 2002 quarter, and a 21 cent-a-share profit for the full year. industrial production, which has been contracting at a slower place in recent months, is also released Friday, and is expected to be flat vs. a 0.1% drop in December.