Market Insider: Friday Look Ahead

Ding, dong Dell.

The computer marker's after hours earnings miss could put a dent in tech in Friday's quiet, pre-holiday session. But no matter which direction the market heads Friday, traders agree it could be easily moved on very light volume.

Dell stock sunk more than 11 percent after it said profits fell 17 percent to $616 million, and its per share profit missed analysts' estimates. The company blamed weakness in Europe but also said some of that pain was self-inflicted because of pricing mistakes. Other tech stocks weakened after hours in sympathy.

There are a few economic headlines to watch Friday: personal income at 8:30 a.m., Chicago purchasing managers at 9:45 a.m. and Consumer sentiment at 10 a.m.

Stocks rose Thursday on thin volume. The Dow rocketed 212 points, or 1.8 percent to 11,715, and the S&P 500 was up 18, or 1.5 percent at 1300.68. The Nasdaq rose 1.2 percent to 2411.

"The absentee level is as high as I remember it," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS. He said there's an air of confusion among traders despite the rising market. "People have decided "I'm going to put down my sword and go away for a while.'"

A big story Friday will again be the approach of Gustav, which continued to steam toward the Gulf of Mexico Thursday, though at a slower clip. It is expected to make land fall early Tuesday on the Louisiana coast, and arrive as anything from a category 2 to category 4 hurricane. New Orleans remains a possible point of land fall, on the eve of the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's assault on that city Aug. 29, 2005.

Oil fell $2.56 per barrel, or 2.2 percent to $115.59, after climbing above $120 early Thursday. Oil dropped as the DOE and the IEA promised to provide emergency supplies if Gustav chokes off oil flow. Crude futures are currently trading above $116 in the Asian Friday session Gasoline futures fell $0.0458, or 1.5 percent per gallon to $3.0214, and natural gas fell 6.5 percent on a surprise increase in the weekly inventory report.

Stocks rallied Thursday as revised second quarter GDP showed the economy grew at a surprisingly strong 3.3 percent. GDP was lifted in a big way by trade and followed on better-than-expected durable goods orders Wednesday.

Cashin said there was a flood of orders into financial stocks Thursday and strong buying interest was evident toward the market close. The S&P financial sector jumped 4.5 percent, helped by improving sentiment about mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and also news that bond insurer MBIA was in a deal to reinsure billions of dollars in muni bonds.

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