Tech stock rally seen at the open

By staff

NEW YORK ( -- Better-than-expected earnings from Oracle and Research in Motion were expected to lift U.S. stocks, particularly the tech sector, at Friday's open.

Investors shrugged off the government's latest report on consumer prices that came in slightly ahead of economists' forecasts.

Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were higher ahead of the opening bell. Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance.

But investors are also bracing for a potentially volatile trading day as traders adjust their portfolios during so-called "quadruple witching."

The term refers to the phenomenon that takes place four times a year when several derivatives contracts expire at the same time -- those tied to market index futures, market index options, stock options and stock futures. It often leads to a massive surge in trading as professional investors adjust their portfolios.

"This has been a tech-led morning so far, and the market does look pretty good," said Marc Riddick, chief investment strategist and senior analyst at Riddick Consumer Strategies. "As we move toward those consumer numbers later in the morning, anything in line with estimates will allow that to continue. But with quadruple witching, there's certainly going to be a good amount of volatility to go with it."

Investors have been encouraged by recent signs of improvement in manufacturing, but the outlook for job growth remains cloudy. Without any clear indication of where the economy is headed, the stock market has drifted modestly higher so far in September.

Stocks were mixed at the close of Thursday's session, with the Dow gaining and the S&P 500 ending the day flat.

Companies: Late Thursday, business software maker Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) reported double-digit percentage profit and sales growth in its first quarter, on the back of rising demand for business software and servers. Shares of Oracle rose nearly 4% in pre-market trading.

BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion reported quarterly profit that beat analysts' expectations and issued an upbeat forecast after the closing bell Thursday. RIM (RIMM) reported net income of $796.7 million, or $1.46 per share, in its fiscal second quarter. That's up sharply from $475.6 million, or 83 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Shares of RIM surged about 4% in pre-market trading.

Economy: The government reported its main inflation gauge Friday morning.

The Consumer Price Index showed that prices rose 0.3% in August, according to the government report.

The CPI was expected to show that prices rose 0.2% in August, according to consensus estimates from Without including volatile food and energy prices, the CPI was unchanged in August. Economist had expected an increase of 0.1%.

A report on consumer sentiment is also due out just before 10 a.m. ET.

The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment is expected to show that consumers were slightly more optimistic in the early part of September. The index is expected to rise to 70 from 68.9.

In the afternoon, President Obama is scheduled to announce that he's appointing Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren as a special adviser to help create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that's a part of the Wall Street reform law.

Warren will advise the president and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during the set-up process, but the announcement does not mean that she will run the new consumer bureau once it's up and running. But she remains a candidate for that job as well, sources have told CNN.

World markets: European shares were higher Friday, but lost steam from their earlier rally. The CAC 40 in France rose 0.3%, Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.2% and Germany's DAX rose 0.2%.

Asian markets closed higher. Japan's benchmark Nikkei index gained 1.2%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.3%. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar edged up against the euro, but slipped versus the Japanese yen and Britain's pound.

Oil futures for October delivery edged up 8 cents to $74.65 a barrel.

Gold for December delivery rose $5.40 to $1,279.20 an ounce, backing off its earlier highs. Earlier in the morning gold posted a new intra-day trading high of $1,284.40 an ounce.

The contract closed at an all-time high of $1,273.80 on Thursday, topping the previous record of $1,271.70, which came on Tuesday.

Bonds: The price on the 10-year Treasury note was higher, pushing down the yield to 2.71%. To top of page

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