Stocks finished in the red Tuesday as tech and retail updates could not rouse a quiet holiday session.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 18.74 points, or 0.19%, at 9,737.79. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.54 point, or 0.05%, to 1,046.57. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 10.89 points, or 0.56%, at 1,930.75.
Biotech, airlines, and disk drive makers led losses, while gold and homebuilders rose.
Technology concerns and retailers dominated headlines Tuesday. On the tech front, satellite digital television provider EchoStar (DISH) fell after the company said problems delivering some new products hurt subscriptions in the third quarter.
Business software concern Oracle (ORCL) may give up its hostile $7.3 billion bid for PeopleSoft (PSFT) if PeopleSoft continues to refund software license fees, according to media reports.
Software giant Microsoft (MSFT) said it will cut the price of its Xbox game console by a third in Japan, underpricing rival consumer electronics maker Sony (SNE). Sony recently reduced the price for PlayStation 2 ahead of the holiday shopping season.
Cablevision Systems (CVC) announced more accounting irregularities. The cable operator reported a wider third-quarter loss due to weakness in its cable television business.
This week, many large retail chains are in the earnings spotlight. Some retailers rose after Merrill Lynch upgraded stocks in the sector.
So far, results have been mixed. Department store operator J.C. Penney (JCP) said that its fiscal third-quarter profit tumbled 35% on weakness in its Eckerd drugstore chain.
TJX (TJX), which runs the off-price Marshall's and TJ Maxx chains, reported earnings of 36 cents per share for the third quarter, in line with the consensus forecast. Revenues rose 11.2% year over year, to $3.39 billion.
There was no economic data Tuesday. Wednesday's docket is bare as well.
More tech and retail earnings will be on investors' plates Wednesday. Teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), which reported after Tuesday's market close, said earnings rose to 51 cents per share, from 48 cents a year ago.
Among tech companies, Sycamore Networks (SCMR) reported a net loss for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 of $12.2 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $17.4 million, or 7 cents per share a year ago.
Other earnings reports due Wednesday include: AnnTaylor Stores (ANN), Federated Department Stores (FD), Applied Materials (AMAT), and Medtronic (MDT).
The low-price retailers are on deck for Thursday: Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), and Kohl's (KSS) will all report.
Dell (DELL) and Starbucks (SBUX) also report results Thursday.
The bond market was closed Tuesday in honor of the Veteran's Day holiday. On Monday, Treasuries faltered in price as a 3-year auction was not quite as strong as hoped. Still, weakness in stocks and short-covering ahead of the holiday boosted bonds to close at unchanged levels.
In economic news, the bulk of important data come toward the end of the week. Traders will look for direction from initial jobless claims data on Thursday and producer price index and retail sales Friday.
European bourses finished mostly lower Tuesday, with DaimlerChrysler and Telecom Italia leading losses. London's Financial Times-Stock added 3.90 points, or 0.09%, to 4,345.70, with little reaction to news that Britain's September trade gap widened to 2.2 billion pounds from 1.7 billion pounds in August.
In Paris, the CAC 40 fell 19.14 points, or 0.56%, to 3,406.05. Germany's DAX index lost 16.37 points, or 0.44%, to 3,729.87, ignoring reports showing ZEW consumer confidence rose to a 16-month high and September exports rose 5.3% due to increased U.S. demand.
Asian markets finished down sharply as investors interpreted a tech-led decline in the U.S. as a sign that economic recovery is already priced into the market. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 297.50 points, or 2.83%, to finish at 10,207.04. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 153.06 points, or 0.26%, to 12,003.62.