- Pre-Market Indications

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Indications: Oracle, tech stocks in focus as futures rise

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By Kate Gibson and Simon Kennedy, MarketWatch

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) â€" U.S. stock futures rose on Friday, with technology stocks in particular lifted by results and outlooks from business software maker Oracle Corp. and consultant Accenture PLC.

“Solid earnings from Oracle and Accenture are the main drivers of the morning’s market strength,” said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.

Futures held modest gains after the government said the U.S. economy grew 3.1% in the fourth quarter, up from its 2.8% estimate made last month.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/21b!f:dj\m11 (DJM11 12,165, +54.00, +0.45%)  rose 22 points to 12,138 and Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:sp\m11 (SPM11 1,311, +4.80, +0.37%)  added 2.6 points to 1,307.8.

Nasdaq 100 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f:nd\m11 (NDM11 2,318, +8.50, +0.37%)  were up 6.5 points at 2,315.

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The move for futures came after strong gains for Wall Street on Thursday as U.S. markets posted their fifth gain in six sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/10w!i:dji/delayed (DJIA 12,221, +50.03, +0.41%)  closed up nearly 85 points.

Oracle /quotes/comstock/15*!orcl/quotes/nls/orcl (ORCL 32.64, +0.50, +1.56%)  was one of the early gainers Friday, climbing 4.2% in premarket trading after rising software sales to new corporate customers helped it beat earnings expectations. Read more on Oracle's results.

Among other stocks in focus, Accenture PLC /quotes/comstock/13*!acn/quotes/nls/acn (ACN 54.29, +2.33, +4.48%)  late Thursday reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of 75 cents a share, beating the consensus forecast of 71 cents, while offering guidance that also exceeded expectations.

Mobile-device maker Research In Motion Ltd. /quotes/comstock/15*!rimm/quotes/nls/rimm (RIMM 56.89, -7.20, -11.23%) , on the other hand, slumped 12% in premarket action after its guidance for the current quarter fell short of expectations.

The group said its guidance reflects a greater proportion of lower-end devices in its sales mix as well as additional spending related to its BlackBerry PlayBook, a tablet computer intended to compete with Apple Inc.’s /quotes/comstock/15*!aapl/quotes/nls/aapl (AAPL 351.54, +6.57, +1.90%)  iPad. Read about Research In Motion's disappointing outlook.

Nymex oil prices held above $105 a barrel as Libya and the Mideast remained in focus, with NATO agreeing to take over responsibility for enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya.

Crude for May delivery /quotes/comstock/21n!f:cl\k11 (CLK11 105.52, -0.20, -0.19%)  fell 13 cents to $105.47 a barrel in electronic trading on Globex.

“Rising oil prices are a tax on developed world economies and an inflationary threat in developing markets, but they do not necessitate recession,” said Philip Isherwood, an equity strategist at Evolution Securities.

Isherwood said in an email that the “ultimate fear” is a return to the situation in the 1970s, where oil prices tripled between 1973 and 1974.

While few commentators currently expect such a sharp rise in oil, if the upward trend in year-on-year prices continues commodity stocks should outperform, while technology stocks should be around the middle of the pack, while health-care stocks, utilities and banks would all likely be among the weaker performers, Isherwood said.

Later in the session, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey for March is slated for release.

The dollar edged up against the yen to ¥81.16, while the euro slipped to $1.4129.

In Japan, the Nikkei Stock Average closed up 1.1%. European stocks swung between gains and losses in afternoon trading.

Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York. Simon Kennedy is the City correspondent for MarketWatch in London.

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