Big News Day Leaves Stocks With Small Losses

New accounting concerns, Greenspan's testimony and earnings pressure the averages.
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Updated from 4:06 p.m. EDT

Stocks ended lower in volatile trading Wednesday, as news of fresh accounting issues and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan's speech on the economy kept investors cautious.

After jumping 200 points over the last two days, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

ended down 22.90 points, or 0.3%, at 8480.09, while the

Nasdaq

dropped 6.99 points, or 0.5%, at 1464.31. The

S&P 500

fell 0.92 points, or 0.1%, at 916.92.

In economic news, the April PMI number came in at 47.6, which is lower than the Wall Street estimate of 48.5, and lower than the March reading of 48.5. Until last month, the reading had been above 50, which signals expansion in manufacturing and is a positive economic sign.

Greenspan didn't make any earth-shattering pronouncements in his testimony. He said the economic picture is coming into focus now that war in Iraq has ended, but that the timing of a recovery is still unclear. He also said that financial markets have better tone, which could potentially lead to a boost in capital spending down the line.

"Going forward, some further unwinding of the economic tensions that have been associated with the situation in Iraq seems likely. As that occurs, the fundamental trends shaping the economic outlook should emerge more clearly," Greenspan said. "I continue to believe the economy is positioned to expand at a noticeably better pace than it has during the past year, though the timing and the extent of that improvement remains uncertain."

While Greenspan didn't make any definitive statements that the recovery would come in the second half, the testimony was cautiously optimistic, although it wasn't enough to move the markets from their lows of the session.

In corporate news,

Tyco

(TYC)

said it will book a $1.1 billion charge in the second quarter to cover new accounting problems. The charge will result in a quarterly loss, although Tyco also predicted cash flow would top $1 billion in the period, a much better than expected result. Shares reversed early losses to gain 1.5% to $15.60.

Like Tyco,

Footstar

(FTS) - Get Report

also revealed some accounting issues on Wednesday. The shoe retailer said it would not be able to file its 10-K for 2002 because external auditors are still looking at the company's books. Six months ago, Footstar revealed that management would have to restate most of 2002's earnings because of accounting issues. Shares dropped 6.9% to $9.25.

Duke Energy

(DUK) - Get Report

said its first-quarter profit dropped because of an accounting charge, which offset stronger sales during the cold U.S. winter. The company said it expects to meet its previously set 2003 forecast. Duke gained 1.8% to $17.59.

A wide variety of energy and energy-related names released earnings on Wednesday.

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

announced first-quarter earnings by 17 cents a share, on a sharp revenue increase. Shares rose 0.5% to $50.30.

Southern

(SO) - Get Report

rose 0.8% to $29.04 after the company announced first-quarter earnings that topped expectations by 8 cents a share, while affirming 2003 guidance.

OGE Energy

(OGE) - Get Report

rose 1.3% to $17.95 after announcing first-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates by a nickel.

Constellation Energy

(CEG)

reported first-quarter earnings that topped estimates by 2 cents a share. But

Noble Energy

(NBL) - Get Report

announced earnings that missed estimates by 2 cents a share. Constellation fell 2.3% to $29.28, while Noble rose 1.9% to $33.20.

Kerr-McGee

(KMG)

announced first-quarter earnings of $1.20 a share, excluding charges for accounting and other special items, which beat estimates by 16 cents. Shares rose 2.9% to $42.11.

Goodyear

(GT) - Get Report

, the world's third-largest tire maker, said its first-quarter loss widened amid weak sales and higher costs related to raw materials and pension payments. It was the company's sixth loss in the past 10 quarters. Goodyear fell 3.9% to $5.72.

Monsanto

(MON)

, a maker of agrochemical products, swung to a profit in the first quarter after a loss last year, but said U.S. sales of herbicides and seeds were weak. However, the company said full-year earnings could top analysts' estimates. Monsanto gained 4.5% to $17.40.

Fiber-optics supplier

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

said it had a quarterly loss amid the current slump in the communications industry. But the company said sales rose for the first time in eight quarters. JDSU fell 2.7% to $3.23.

Teva Pharmaceuticals

(TEVA) - Get Report

announced that it settled its patent fight with

GlaxoSmithKline

(GSK) - Get Report

. Teva dropped 2.4% to $46.70, while Glaxo rose 2.4% to $40.52.

Estee Lauder

(EL) - Get Report

shares jumped 7.3% to $32.50, after the company announced third-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street estimates by 5 cents a share. Revenue rose more than 10% over last year's quarter, and the company raised 2003 estimates above current consensus.

Clear Channel

(CCU) - Get Report

announced first-quarter earnings of 12 cents a share, in line with expectations. Shares rose 3.8% to $39.11.

On the analyst front,

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

,

EMC

(EMC)

and

Network Appliance

(NTAP) - Get Report

were downgraded by Banc of America, which said current valuations are too high. Dell dropped 2.6% to $28.98, EMC slid 4.3% to $9.05, while Network Appliance fell 8.2% to $13.26.

On Tuesday, the Dow gained 31.38 points, or 0.4%, to 8502.99, in volatile trading. The Nasdaq added 9.06 points, or 0.6%, to 1471.30, while the S&P 500 gained 3 points, or 0.3%, to 917.84.

Barring a massive meltdown, the major indexes will end the month with gains. The S&P 500 is up 8% so far in April. The Dow is up 6% and the Nasdaq is up 10% this month.

Crude futures recently touched $25.80, up 56 cents, in New York. Overseas stock markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 closing down by two points at 3926 and Germany's Xetra DAX closing 1.1% higher to 2942. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed 2.9% higher at 7831, moving off a two-decade low, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3% to 8717.

Treasuries were higher, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note at 3.89%. The dollar was stronger against the yen, but weaker against the euro.