Updated from 4:03 p.m. EDT

After a brief stint in positive territory blue-chips closed down Wednesday, and tech stocks, while higher, finished well below their best levels of the session.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average with a loss of 54.46 points, or 0.5%, to 10,243.68. The

Nasdaq added 6.51 points, or 0.4%, to 1725.56, and the

S&P 500 was down 6.21 points, or 0.6%, at 1091.07.

The most-watched company after the close of the previous session rose slightly but failed to bring in buyers for the broader market.

Applied Materials

(AMAT) - Get Report

, a maker of semiconductor equipment, reported a second-quarter profit and order growth of 51% after the close Tuesday. Revenue reached $1.16 billion, exceeding expectations. The company also said orders should increase 10% to 15% in the third quarter, and revenue will likely be $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion. Shares of Applied tacked on 0.4% to $26.75.

Other chip-equipment makers, including

KLA-Tencor

(KLAC) - Get Report

and

Novellus

(NVLS)

were mixed.

Storage concern

Network Appliance

(NTAP) - Get Report

saw its shares sink 17% to $15.05 after the company missed analysts' fourth-quarter revenue targets.

Another storage outfit,

Brocade

(BRCD)

, which inadvertently surprised Wall Street with higher guidance for its third quarter on Tuesday, fell 2% to $23.51. Other companies like

EMC

(EMC)

,

Emulex

(EMLX)

and

McData

(MCDTA)

were also lower.

Outside the realm of corporate news, investors had several key economic reports to consider. The Labor Department said

consumer prices rose 0.5% in April, slightly higher than the consensus estimate, compared with a 0.3% increase in March. The core rate, which excludes volatile food and energy items, rose 0.3%, also above expectations.

Separately,

industrial production climbed 0.4% in April, in line with expectations, according to the Federal Reserve. Additionally, the Commerce Department said

business inventories dropped 0.3% in March, suggesting manufacturers may need to increase production to keep pace with consumer demand.

On the research front, Merrill Lynch raised its midterm investment rating on

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

to buy from neutral, saying the media company now sports an attractive valuation, and set a price target of $25. The company's shares climbed 1.6% to $18.85.

Revamped computer maker

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

said earnings in the final quarter before its merger with

Compaq

met Wall Street's expectations as cost-cutting measures and strong printer sales offset the slowdown in technology spending. But revenue for the quarter was disappointing, and H-P said business remains challenging. As a result, the company doesn't see any signs of improvement in IT spending this year. H-P lost 6% to $19.35.

One of the big stories of the day involved a company whose stock wasn't even trading --

Adelphia Communications

(ADLAE)

. The cable company said John Rigas resigned as chief executive after 50 years at the helm. The company also suspended its year-end audit to investigate unspecified issues that had surfaced and hired lawyer David Boies to help with the probe.

The move comes amid a formal government investigation of Adelphia's off-balance sheet loans, which has dragged the stock down nearly 75% in the last two months. Erland Kailbourne, the chairman of the company's audit committee, will replace Rigas. When the stock will trade again is anybody's guess. Nasdaq suspended trading in the issue and requested additional information from the cable operator. Trading will remain halted until Adelphia, which went out Tuesday at $5.70, satisfies the request.

In the retail space,

Federated Department Stores

(FD)

, the operator of Macy's and Bloomingdale's, posted a higher first-quarter profit as improved margins offset weaker sales. The company's earnings matched the consensus estimate, and the stock advanced 0.4% to $43.17 on the news. Meanwhile,

Abbott Labs

(ABT) - Get Report

, a maker of pharmaceutical and healthcare products, shed 9.4% to $46.90 after one of its plants failed to meet the

Food and Drug Administration's

quality standards.

Elsewhere,

Newmont Mining

(NEM) - Get Report

, the world's largest gold producer, recorded a narrower first-quarter loss thanks to increased sales resulting from higher gold prices. The company posted a loss of $10.9 million, or 4 cents a share, compared with a loss of $39.1 million, or 20 cents a share, a year earlier. The results include a $12.3 million mark-to-market gain from derivatives. Newmont was down 1% to $27.67.

U.S. Treasury issues were higher. Around 4 p.m. EDT, the 10-year note was up 7/32 to 97 6/32, yielding 5.24%.

Overseas market were stronger, as London's FTSE 100 gained 0.4% to 5259, and Germany's Xetra DAX added 0.5% to 5072. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2.5% to 11,643, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng finished up 1.3% to 11,838.