Stocks ended off their lows of the day but still were firmly in the red, after Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan put the kibosh on Wall Street's hopes for an intermeeting interest rate cut earlier today.

In a revision of the

Humphrey-Hawkins testimony that he gave to Congress earlier this month, Greenspan expressed more concern about the health of the economy, but not enough to warrant a reduction in the

fed funds rate before the Fed's next official meeting on Mar. 20.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average, which soared 200 points Monday on speculation that the Fed might cut rates this week, has nearly reversed those gains. Losses in interest-rate sensitive stocks were particularly steep, as the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

, was off 1.5%, and

Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index

, down 0.6%, both fell on the news.

The

Nasdaq Composite Index, which also got a break earlier this week as talk of an interest-rate reduction brewed, ended at levels last seen in December 1998. Among the technology groups punished in late-day action were chipmakers, PC makers, networking-equipment companies and Internet names.

After warning that it expects revenue in its fiscal first quarter to drop 20% from fourth-quarter levels, specialty chipmaker

Altera

(SYMBOL)

saw its ratings cut by the analyst community today. Both

UBS Warburg

and

Lehman Brothers

trimmed their earnings estimates this morning. In recent action, Altera was down 1.1% to $23.13.

Elantec Semiconductor

(ELNT)

warned earnings and revenue in its fiscal second-quarter would fall below Wall Street's targets, sending its stock lower by a whopping 35.4% to $19.81.

Over on the

blue-chip index, the scene was bloody.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

, down 2.6%,

SBC Communications

(SBC)

, lower 5.7%,

J.P. Morgan

(JPM) - Get Report

, behind 2%, and

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

, off 3.1%, each took away more than 10 points from the Dow.

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Sector Watch

Retail stocks traded lower in recent action, as rate-cut hopes were dashed earlier today. The

S&P Retail Index

was off 1.7%, with components

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

, lower by 4.7% to $42.50, and

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, off 1.8% to $50.09.

Investors weren't even seeking shelter in the safety of gold -- a little profit-taking, perhaps? The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Gold and Silver Index

was down 1.9%. The index lately has gotten a nice bounce off frightened investors fleeing to that which is usually the ultimate defensive.

Still, not all defensives were on the slide; drugmakers were doing fairly well. The

American Stock Exchange Pharmaceutical Index

was up 0.7%. Yesterday, component

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

, up 1.9% to $79.46, won approval from the

Food and Drug Administration

for its ever-popular depression medication, Prozac, to be administered in a weekly form.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasuries were mixed as traders realize they will probably have to wait until late March for an interest-rate cut. The short-dated securities, which are more sensitive to revisions in short-term lending rates, were moving positively now after having slipped earlier this morning. The long bond was down slightly, while its yield has not changed much.

As noted above, Fed head Greenspan today updated his Feb. 13 testimony before Congress. Speaking to the

House Financial Services Committee

, he once again

expressed concern about the economy, reiterating that he expects a slow recovery and possibly more dips before the eventual pickup. Though his words clearly point to further rate-cutting, his remarks also snuffed out hopes that the Fed would move before its next scheduled meeting, on March 20.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was up 10/32 to 100 21/32, lowering its yield to 4.914%.

In economic news, the revised reading of the

gross domestic product

(

definition |

chart |

source

), which measures the rate at which goods and services are produced in the nation, is at 1.1% for the fourth quarter of last year, its slowest growth since the second quarter of 1995, when it was 0.3% lower. Still, it is slightly above the 1.0% predicted by economists in the

Reuters

poll.

The latest

Mortgage Applications Survey

(

definition |

chart |

source

) detected an increase in the purchase of new units, but a decrease in home refinancing.

For the week ended Friday, the purchase index rose to 291.4 from the previous week's 274.3. The refinancing index fell to 2140.4 from 2346.1. Greenspan mentioned the relatively strong showing in home

and automobile sales as a sign that some sections of the economy are holding steady.

The

Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index

(

definition |

chart) rose to 43.2 during February after falling to 40.2 for January. The gauge indicates a contraction in the manufacturing sector when below 50.

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