Maybe this is how the bull market ends (or, at least, stalls). Not with a bang, but with the whimper of Internet investors cringing under the weight of margin-call-induced selling. For a second straight session, an early-morning rally evaporated in the heat of an unrelenting IPO calendar and rising interest rates.

Tech gauges sustained the brunt of the selling in another day of unpleasant (for those long) market internals, although the most public face of equities sidestepped the downdraft.

Bulls were undermined today by investors' continued reluctance to buy ahead of key economic data due later in the week and the bond market's ongoing struggles. The price of the 30-year Treasury bond fell 18/32 to 87 21/32, its yield rising to 6.17%.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index

was the scene of the most dramatic turnaround today, closing off 35.69, or 1.4%, to 2587.94 after trading as high as 2649.21 and as low as 2564.25. The tech-enslaved index is now down 9.7% from its

July 16 record of 2864.48.

The

Nasdaq 100

fell 1.1% despite renewed strength in bellwethers such as

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

.

Much of the Comp's setback was fostered by Internet stocks:

TheStreet.com Internet Sector

index, once as high as 553.42, closed off 20.96, or 3.9%, to 519.07. The DOT is 34.3% off its

April 12 high of 790.44.

The online group got an early lift thanks to a report in

Business Week Online

that

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

and

Excite@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

are in merger talks. But Excite@Home executives denied the story,

Reuters

reported. Yahoo! shed 5.3% while Excite@Home added 1%.

'We have guys here that are starting to be fearful,' one market player said of Net-stock traders. But 'we are groping for a bottom. After the employment report Friday they'll run 'em and gun 'em.'

The sector was further punished by online brokers, which tumbled after

Credit Suisse First Boston

issued a report predicting the third quarter will show the first sequential decline in trading volume for the industry.

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

, DOT component

E*Trade

(EGRP)

,

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

,

DLJdirect

(DIR)

and

National Discount Brokers

(NDB)

each fell at least 11.5%.

The selling spilled into nearly all Net issues. Big -- such as

America Online

(AOL)

, down 4.2%, and

CMGI

(CMGI)

, which fell 7.2%. Small -- such as

drugstore.com

(DSCM)

, which stumbled 15.2% despite announcing a prescription deal with

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

. And new -- such as

1-800-Flowers.com

(FLWS:Nasdaq) and

Quotesmith.com

(QUOT:Nasdaq), which fell 13.7% and 12.5%, respectively, from IPO levels.

Meanwhile,

EarthLink Network

(ELNK)

fell 7.8%,

Exodus Communications

(EXDS)

shed 4.6%,

Verio

(VRIO)

dipped 1.1% and

PSINet

(PSIX)

slumped 5.9%, all despite receiving new outperform recommendations from

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

.

"We have guys here that are starting to be fearful," said one market player, who requested anonymity. "If I owned

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

, CMGI, Yahoo!,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

, et al., I'd be very upset, too."

But "we are groping for a bottom," he said. "After the employment report Friday they'll run 'em and gun 'em."

Less Blues for Blue-Chips

Meanwhile, the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed up 31.35, or 0.3%, to 10,677.31 after trading as high as 10,727.97 and as low as 10,613.99. The index was buoyed by strength in

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

,

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

and

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

. The last rose 2.5% on an upgrade from

J.P. Morgan

.

The

S&P 500

fell 5.87, or 0.4%, to 1322.18 after trading as high as 1336.06. The index -- down 6.8% from its July 16 high -- was waylaid by weak financials such as

American Express

(AXP) - Get Report

, as well as technology giants such as

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, which fell 8.2%.

The

Russell 2000

declined 6.35, or 1.4%, to 436.28 as market internals soured again.

In

New York Stock Exchange

trading, 735 million shares were exchanged while declining stocks led advancers 1,882 to 1,091. In

Nasdaq Stock Market

action 1.01 billion shares traded while losers led 2,689 to 1,296. New 52-week lows bested new highs 150 to 29 on the Big Board and by 115 to 54 in over-the-counter trading.

"It's pretty negative. I've got to tell you," said Sam Ginzburg, managing director of equity trading at

Gruntal

. "The mood is dismal."

Ginzburg, who when last interviewed on

July 14 (correctly) predicted stocks would get "whacked," is still "negative." But "it's getting close to starting to have to buy some things," he said. "If there's no blowups overseas, we're primed for a nice rally in mid-to-late August."

At a recent golf outing with "guys from the biggest firms, the best traders I know, everybody was saying the same thing -- they're nervous," he recalled. "But as soon as you start seeing the tide turn, they'll be buying the crap out of stocks."

Calling it "the toughest thing to do," Ginzburg said he's mainly standing pat right now. "We're looking at companies where we can dip our toe in the water but don't want to be caught long if we're coming into a bit more selling pressure."

"People are scared to do anything," he continued. "When that happens it's time to look to buy. If

the

Fed

doesn't raise rates in August, you're probably clear through the rest of the year. If they do, you buy that dip."

At the extremes among sector proxies, the

American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

slid 4.2% while the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold & Silver Index

jumped 5.6%.

Among other indices, the

Dow Jones Transportation Average

fell 44.47, or 1.3%, to 3325.80; the

Dow Jones Utility Average

added 1.17, or 0.4%, to 316.85; and the

American Stock Exchange Composite Index

shed 3.17, or 0.4%, to 780.47.

Elsewhere in North American equities, the

Toronto Stock Exchange 300

fell 47.7 to 7033.30 and the

Mexican Stock Exchange IPC Index

jumped 71.32, or 1.4%, to 5178.09.

Tuesday's Company Report

By Eileen Kinsella
Staff Reporter

(

Earnings estimates from First Call; new highs and lows on a closing basis unless otherwise specified. Earnings reported on a diluted basis unless otherwise specified.

)

Not even a dot-com could get investors excited about a number of Internet IPOs today. Buyers turned into wallflowers when

1-800-Flowers.com

(FLWS:Nasdaq) started trading, making some observers wonder if the one-two punch of dot-com and IPO is losing its clout. Shares wilted 2 7/8, or 13.7%, to 18 3/16.

Goldman Sachs

last night priced the flower seller's 6 million shares at $21, above the expected range of $16 to $18.

But the drooping stock didn't wither the spirits of CEO and Chairman Jim McCann, who said he was "flattered we seem to be holding up OK in a bad market." McCann added, "This is obviously not a new concept. I'm very glad we don't have to explain why we are 40 one day and 20 the next."

Other IPO stocks were humming the same tune.

BigStar Entertainment

(BGST:Nasdaq) lost 1 27/32, or 18.4%, to 8 5/32 in a poor first day of trading.

Prudential Securities

late yesterday priced 2.5 million shares at $10 each, cut from a planned 3.1 million shares at $12 to $14 each.

Quotesmith.com

(QUOT:Nasdaq) slipped 1 3/8, or 12.5%, to 9 11/16 after being priced top-range at $11 a share yesterday by

Hambrecht & Quist

.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

America Online shed 4 1/16 to 88 13/16 and

Radiant Systems

(RADS)

climbed 3 3/8, or 21.3%, to 19 3/8 after the companies set a retail services pact. AOL said it would make an unspecified investment in Radiant.

Bell Atlantic

(BEL)

slipped 1 to 64 and

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

slipped 15/16 to 208 15/16 after the companies agreed to restructure their ownership interests in

PrimeCo Personal Communications

, their wireless phone partnership.

British American Tobacco

(BTI) - Get Report

edged down 5/16 to 17 3/16 after it agreed to buy the 58% of

Imasco

that it does not already own for roughly $6.8 billion.

Yahoo! dropped 6 15/16, or 5.3%, to 125 3/8 and

Excite@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

moved up 7/16 to 43 3/8 even after Excite@Home President George Bell told everyone to calm down, denying a

Business Week Online

story that reported the companies had held talks over the last six weeks about a possible merger. Yahoo! reportedly would buy Excite@Home for some amount greater than its recent market value of $17 billion.

Rite Aid

(RAD) - Get Report

gained 3 3/8, or 21.2%, to 19 3/8 and

drugstore.com

(DSCM)

shed 6 13/16, or 15.2%, to 38 after the companies set a deal to allow Rite Aid customers to order their prescription refills on line.

Mail.com

(MAIL)

climbed 1, or 6.6%, to 16 5/16 after saying it will provide Web-based email for

Dell's

(DELL) - Get Report

consumer Web site. Shares of Dell slipped 9/16 to 39 7/16.

Earnings/revenue reports and previews

Air Express International

(AEIC)

lost 9/16 to 26 11/16 after it posted second-quarter earnings of 38 cents a share, lower than the 12-analyst estimate of 40 cents and a penny less than the year-ago 39 cents a share.

Aon

(AOC)

gave up 1 1/4 to 35 1/2 after posting second-quarter earnings of 57 cents a share, a penny shy of the 10-analyst estimate of 58 cents and up from the year-ago 54 cents.

Asia Pacific

(ARH)

was unchanged at 15/16 after it reported a second quarter loss of 8 cents a share, wider than a lone analyst estimate of a 3-cent loss, and worse than the year-ago 4-cent profit.

Equitable

(EQ) - Get Report

fell 2 9/16 to 61 11/16 after it posted second-quarter after-tax operating earnings of $1.22 a share, ahead of the nine-analyst estimate of $1.14 and up from the year-ago operating earnings of 98 cents.

Entercom

(ETM) - Get Report

lost 5/16 to 39 13/16 despite reporting second-quarter earnings of 18 cents per share, ahead of the two-analyst estimate of 15 cents and up from 14 cents a year ago.

Global Crossing

(GBLX)

lost 1 3/4 to 38 1/8 after posting a second-quarter loss of a penny a share, in line with the single-analyst estimate and narrower than the year-ago loss of 58 cents.

Global Telesystems

(GTSG)

climbed 1 7/8 to 33 27/64 after reporting a narrower-than-expected loss of 66 cents a share, compared with a five-analyst estimate of a loss of 69 cents, but wider than the year-ago loss of 34 cents.

HealthSouth

(HRC) - Get Report

gained 3/8 to 12 5/8 after posting second-quarter earnings of 27 cents a share, in line with the 11-analyst estimate but down from the year-ago 28 cents.

Lancer

shaved off 3/8 to 8 3/4 after reporting second-quarter earnings of 16 cents a share, shy of the two-analyst estimate and below 23 cents a year ago.

Liberty

(LC) - Get Report

shed 11/16 to 52 11/16 after it posted second-quarter operating earnings of 68 cents a share, ahead of the one-analyst estimate of 65 cents but down from the year-ago operating earnings of 76 cents.

Mylan Laboratories

(MYL) - Get Report

rose 7/16 to 23 1/8 after it reported first-quarter earnings of 25 cents a share, a penny shy of the eight-analyst estimate and down from the year-ago 28 cents.

PE Biosystems

(PEB) - Get Report

jumped 6 11/16, or 12.4%, to 60 7/16 after it reported fourth-quarter earnings of 85 cents a share, better than the eight-analyst estimate of 42 cents, and up from 57 cents a year ago. The company had a 2-for-1 stock split July 26 but reported fourth-quarter earnings on a presplit basis.

Sensormatic

(SRM)

rose 1 7/16, or 11.4%, to 14 after reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 26 cents a share, in line with the five-analyst estimate and up from 11 cents a year ago.

Waste Management

(WMI)

dropped 1 1/4 to 24 3/16 after it reported second-quarter earnings of 51 cents a share, lower than an 11-analyst estimate of 58 cents, and ahead of 42 cents a year ago.

Offerings and stock actions

Discount travel company

Cheap Tickets

(CTIX)

filed with the SEC for a public offering of 5 million shares. The company will offer 2.5 million shares and existing shareholders will sell the remainder. William Blair & Co, Dain Raushcer Wessels and Volpe Brown Whelan will manage the offering. Shares dropped 6 11/16, or 13.1%, to 44.

Interactive Pictures

said the estimated price range for its 4.2 million-share IPO rose to 16 to 18 per share, from 12 to 14.

J.P. Morgan

,

Hambrecht & Quist

,

Morgan Keegan

and

Stephens

are the underwriters and shares are expected to begin trading on Aug. 5.

Analyst actions

Cigna

(CI) - Get Report

lost 5 7/8, or 6.6%, to 83 5/8 after

Merrill Lynch

downgraded the stock to near-term accumulate from near-term buy.

EchoStar

(DISH) - Get Report

rose 6 13/16, or 10.6%, to 71 1/2 after

Banc of America Securities

upgraded the stock to buy from outperform.

Johnson & Johnson

(JNJ) - Get Report

added 2 1/4 to 94 3/16 after J.P. Morgan upgraded the stock to buy and set a price target of 110.

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

moved up 7/16 to 39 1/16 after Banc of America Securities upgraded the stock to buy from market perform.

Miscellany

Algos

(ALGO)

got socked after the

Food and Drug Administration

didn't approve its cancer painkiller. Shares fell 13 31/32, or 58.5%, to 9 15/16.

Footstar

(FTS) - Get Report

slipped 1 5/8 to 33 7/8 after the company said a revision to its $300 million credit agreement gives it flexibility to complete a 2.2 million-share repurchase program approved in May.

SafeScience

(SAFS)

gained 3 7/16, or 15%, after the company reported results from an early trial phase of a tumor-shrinking drug.

St. Paul

(SPC)

shed 1/16 to 32 1/8 despite announcing a cost-cutting plan under which the company expects to eliminate 1,000 jobs.

As originally published, this story contained an error. Please see Corrections and Clarifications

.