NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
A quarterly profit from Cisco Systems could ignite a tech rally Wednesday -- indicated by sharply higher futures -- as U.S. stocks look set to surge at the open despite some cautious guidance from the network equipment maker.
The Nasdaq-100 and Standard & Poor's futures pointed to a strong start for the major U.S. indexes, which finished fairly flat Tuesday after erasing broad gains.
Also: Compuware estimates cut by CSFB
Cisco Systems (CSCO: Research, Estimates) late Tuesday reported fiscal third-quarter earnings of 11 cents a share before extraordinary items -- 2 cents a share above the 9-cent-a-share consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by First Call, and far better than the 3 cents a share earned a year earlier.
But Cisco also said it couldn't be certain about its outlook, and could possibly post lower-than-expected revenue. "Visibility remains limited, and this should come as no surprise, given that our customers' visibility is limited," said CEO John Chambers.
Wachovia Securities was among a host of brokerages that raised estimates on the provider of networking solutions. Wachovia early Wednesday raised its fiscal 2002 estimate on Cisco Systems to 34 cents a share from 28 cents and raised its 2003 forecast to 42 cents from 33 cents. Calling the results "mixed," Wachovia maintained a "market perform" rating on the stock.
Cisco shares soared $1.62 to $14.70 in before-hours trading Wednesday. And Cisco had an impact on markets outside the United States -- it was credited with the stronger close in the Asian-Pacific region and the early advance for European stocks.
One possible obstacle to stocks could be the renewed violence in the Middle East. Israeli officials said an apparent suicide bombing in a town south of Tel Aviv killed 15 people and wounded many more late Tuesday; a possible second bombing early Wednesday killed only the alleged assailant.
Federal Reserve policy makers, as expected, left interest rates unchanged at their meeting in Washington Tuesday. In their statement, they said the risks to the economy are balanced between inflation and weakness, with demand a key element in determining if production will increase soon.
U.S. stocks fizzled late in Tuesday's session. At least the Dow Jones industrial average starts Wednesday with a little positive momentum; the Nasdaq composite index finished in a negative territory at another seven-month low (see chart).
Treasury prices fell in early trading, sending the 10-year note yield up to 5.10 percent from 5.06 percent late Tuesday. The dollar was slightly up versus the yen but edged lower against the euro.
Brent oil futures rose 12 cents to $25.53 a barrel in London, where gold was higher.
In the morning's quarterly corporate reports, retail drugstore chain CVS (CVS: Research, Estimates) posted profit of 43 cents a share for its first quarter, in line with estimates. CVS shares rose $1.14 to $33.62 Tuesday.
Among companies scheduled to report results after the close Wednesday is "Toy Story" and "Monsters Inc." creator Pixar Animation (PIXR: Research, Estimates).
Energy merchant Dynegy (DYN: Research, Estimates) reported it has been advised by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it intends to request a formal investigation in connection with the company's natural gas transaction called "Project Alpha." Dynegy said it intends to continue to cooperate fully with the SEC in resolving this issue. Dynegy shares fell $1.31 to $10.85 in before-hours trading Wednesday.
KPMG Consulting (KCIN: Research, Estimates) said Wednesday it has agreed to buy up to 23 independent consulting units, including U.S. operations, from Arthur Andersen's international affiliate for $284 million. KPMG shed 63 cents to $15.05 Tuesday.
Software maker Compuware (CPWR: Research, Estimates)'s fiscal 2003 estimates were cut by Credit Suisse First Boston to 47 cents a share from 57 cents. The firm said it believes the company will see flat to slightly lower growth in its mainframe business due to a challenging economic environment. Compuware on Tuesday posted a fourth-quarter net loss versus a profit a year earlier. Excluding charges, the company beat Wall Street estimates by a penny. Compuware rose 11 cents Tuesday to $6.89.