Investors look for tech to rise as behemoth earnings loom

Thu Jan 19, 2012 3:50pm EST
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By Angela Moon and Doris Frankel

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) - As four big tech bellwethers ready their earnings reports after the bell on Thursday, the big question is whether their results will further fuel a solid rally in the tech sector.

Major companies due to report quarterly earnings include Dow components, Intel Corp, Microsoft Corp, International Business Machines and Google Inc.

Market participants are optimistic about Google and Microsoft earnings and lukewarm toward Intel and IBM results.

The Nasdaq 100 index, which tracks the 100 largest non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq, is up 7.3 percent so far this year, and could easily top its 10 percent gain in October, which was its best month since Sept 2010. For the year the S&P 500 is up 4.6 percent.

"Solid earnings would help to confirm the price action we have been seeing in the Nasdaq 100 index," said Steve Place, a founder of options analytics firm in Mobile, Alabama.

"Maybe investors have already anticipated solid earnings from the major tech stocks and that has led to the breakout in the index."

Chip makers have also rallied, with the PHLX semiconductor index up 13 percent for the year.

INTEL AND NASDAQ   Continued...