Stocks Close Lower as Anthrax Fears Build

Also, Greenspan says the outlook for the U.S. economy remains difficult to forecast.
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Updated from 3:21 p.m. EDT

Stocks closed lower Wednesday, as continuing fears about anthrax eclipsed somewhat positive earnings news.

The major averages reversed direction after a strong opening. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

ended down 151.26 points, or 1.6%, to 9232.97. The

Nasdaq

was down 75.73 points, or 4.4%, to 1646.34, and the

S&P 500

was off 20.45 points, or 1.9%, to 1077.09. Elsewhere, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan was on Capitol Hill where he said the outlook for the U.S. economy for the next few months remains difficult to forecast.

In latest anthrax case, the Manhattan office of New York Gov. George Pataki has tested positive for the presence of the potentially deadly bacteria. No employees in the office have tested positive, but staffers, including Pataki, will start taking antibiotics. Meanwhile, more than 20 members of Sen. Tom Daschle's staff have reportedly tested positive for anthrax exposure. In Afghanistan, Taliban leaders asked the U.S. to slow down the bombing campaign to allow moderates to reconsider handing over Osama bin Laden.

Overseas, London's FTSE 100 was up 2.4% to 5203, while Germany's Xetra DAX climbed 0.4% to 4645. The CAC 40 in Paris climbed 2.4% to 4412. In Asia, the major averages advanced on the strength of technology stocks, particularly computer hardware. The Nikkei rose 1.1% to 10,755, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1.1% to 10,261.

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

and

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

headed in opposite directions. After the close Tuesday, IBM posted third-quarter earnings of 90 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations by a penny. Shares of IBM rose $1.05, or 1%, at $102.90. Intel met Wall Street's consensus estimate of 10 cents a share, although the bottom line fell sharply from the same period a year ago. The company stood by its fourth-quarter sales target of $6.2 billion to $6.8 billion. Shares of the chipmaker fell 40 cents, or 1.6%, to $24.56.

Media titan

AOL Time Warner

(AOL)

posted pro forma earnings of 30 cents a share, beating lowered expectations. However, AOL's shares were down $2.69, or 8%, to $30.81. Pharmaceutical giant

Pfizer

(PFE) - Get Report

reported third-quarter earnings of 34 cents a share, a penny above consensus forecasts. Pfizer's shares added 55 cents, or 1.3%, to $41.65. For more corporate news, check out

TheStreet.com's

Stocks to Watch.

In Treasuries, the 10-year note was down 1/32 to 103 14/32, yielding 4.56%.