The stock market, a.k.a. "Mr. Frowny Face," continued the day's malaise in afternoon trading. Investors shifted money around to try to protect themselves from the relatively weak performance in technology and financial stocks.

The major indices were lower, led down by tech and other growth names. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average was under pressure from

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

and

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, which had a strong day yesterday and today announced same-store sales figures that were in line with expectations for January.

The Nasdaq was continuing to lose ground since

Cisco's

(CSCO) - Get Report

bad earnings news on Tuesday night spread through the broader tech market. Cisco was taken down 13% Wednesday and was continuing its descent today, down another 2% on heavy volume.

Other big-cap technology stocks continued to lose ground today, with

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

also in the red. Cisco's announcement stirred up the market because the networking giant has beaten earnings estimates by a penny every quarter for the last couple years. When a market darling is hit with troubles, investors generally get spooked about the depth of problems hitting the entire tech sector.

Given that the Nasdaq wasn't racked by major losses on the Cisco news, however, there is evidence that many investors now have come to expect there won't be growth in tech for a couple quarters. What's unknown is whether tech companies will see resurgent spending near the end of the year. So money managers, after buying tech heavily in January, have turned cautious in the last two weeks.

Telecom stocks have been particularly hard hit, and

WorldCom

(WCOM)

is no exception. This morning, the company said it met

lowered earnings estimates. Investors were rewarding the stock, lifting it 2.2% to $20.56. It is still well off its 52-week high of $52.50.

Other major technology indices were holding steady. The

Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index

was treading water, while the

Nasdaq Telecommunications Index

was also essentially flat.

Investors found some solace in drugs, tobacco, aerospace and defense stocks.

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

, for example, was up 2.7%.

Elsewhere, on the

Big Board,

Electronic Data Systems

(EDS)

was getting a nice pop, up 9.4%, after posting

better-than-expected earnings after the bell last night.

Sector Watch

Defense and aerospace names were seeing modest gains. Dow component

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

gained 0.8%,

Northrop Grumman

(NOC) - Get Report

and

General Dynamics

(GD) - Get Report

were gaining. Engineering and construction companies strengthened as well --

Foster Wheeler

(FWC)

rose more than 6% to a new high, and

McDermott

(MDR) - Get Report

gained 1.3%.

The retail sector saw mixed results with a flood of January same-store sales reports released today. Investors sent the

S&P Retail Index

down 3.9%. Upscale women's clothes retailer

AnnTaylor

(ANN)

was 4.1% lower, after reporting that same-store sales were down 14.3% and issuing a warning about fourth-quarter earnings. Commercial-crazy

Gap

(GPS) - Get Report

was dropping 12% on news that its same-stores sales fell 12%. It, too, issued a warning for the fourth quarter.

TheStreet.com

covered the

retail numbers in a separate story.

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Bonds/Economy

Treasury prices are lower in thin trading. The longer-dated securities are under a bit of pressure following the auction of $10 billion worth of the 30-year bond.

Dealers sold this morning to drive down the auction price. Ultimately, the bonds sold with a yield of 5.46%. The bid-to-cover ratio, which measures the dollar amount bid vs. what was offered, was 1.95 to 1, slightly disappointing, considering that there's talk of eliminating the 30-year maturity altogether. A ratio of 2 or better is considered a reasonable amount of interest; the ratio was 3.71 for the August auction.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was down 7/32 to 99 3/32, yielding 5.117%.

In economic news, the

initial jobless claims

(

definition |

chart |

source

), which tracks the number of laid-off workers applying for unemployment benefits for the first time, rose for the third consecutive week. The bond market has already priced in this trend, however. There were 361,000 claims for the period ended Feb.3, up from 346,000 during the previous week. Economists polled by

Reuters

had forecast 348,000. The four-week moving average, considered the more reliable indicator of unemployment, rose to 331,250 from 327,000.

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