Updated from 4:01 p.m. EDT
The major averages endured a choppy session Wednesday and closed uniformly lower as investors weighed strong quarterly results at
and other companies against a lackluster durable goods report and data showing declining home sales.
Dow Jones Industrial Average finished with a loss of 58.81 points, or 0.6%, to 10,030.43. The
Nasdaq fell 16.95 points, or 1%, to 1713.34, and the
S&P 500 dropped 7.82 points, or 0.7%, to 1093.14.
Earnings and outlooks continued to dominate the news coming out of corporate America, but two key economic reports were also influencing trading. The Census Bureau said
durable goods orders fell 0.6% in March, down sharply from a 2.7% rise in February. Economists were expecting the value of durables, or goods built to last at least three years, to rise 0.5%. Excluding transportation items, the data revealed a 0.1% decline.
Separately, the Commerce Department said
new home sales fell 3.1% in March to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 878,000, relatively in line with the consensus estimate. The rate of new home sales was revised up to 906,000 for February.
Among the companies posting earnings Wednesday was long-distance telephone giant and Dow component
. The company reported a first-quarter profit, before items, that topped analysts' expectations, but the company
lowered its guidance for the second quarter. Revenue dropped 8.4% to $12.02 billion from $13.55 billion in the year-ago period. Including accounting adjustments and other items, the company recorded a loss. Shares of AT&T fell 10 cents to close at $13.75.
Online bookseller Amazon.com continued to impress Wall Street, posting
better-than-expected first-quarter results and raising its 2002 guidance in a post-close earnings report Tuesday. The company reported a first-quarter loss of 6 cents a share, compared with a 21-cent loss in the year-ago period. The company's shares rose 19.4% to $16.79.
, a maker of wireless communication equipment, reported
second-quarter earnings, before investments and amortization of goodwill, of 20 cents a share, matching analysts' forecasts. Including the charges, the San Diego-based company earned $43.9 million, or 5 cents a share, compared with $109.7 million, or 14 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Investors bid up the shares following the release, as the stock climbed 3.2% to $33.29.
is reconsidering the sale of its plastics unit and plans to announce Thursday it may suspend the auction for the division, according to a published report in
The New York Times
. The stock fell 2.9% to $25.91.
, which ran up recently thanks to a renegotiation of power contracts in California, saw its shares drop 11.5% to $11.80 after warning that
first-quarter and full-year earnings would fall short of analysts' expectations. The shortfall for 2002 is largely a result of a stock sale the company is undertaking in order to raise cash to help pay down its debt.
In the biotech sector,
first-quarter earnings of 47 cents a share, in line with expectations, but the company lowered guidance for the second quarter and full year. Shares gained 3.3% to $42.90. Meanwhile, analysts at J.P. Morgan Chase raised their investment rating on
to buy from long-term buy. As a result, the stock traded higher by 2.5% to $56.11.
Also on the research front, software firm
lost 17% to $18 after SoundView Technology downgraded the stock to a buy from a strong buy, citing increased risk in its domain name business, which accounts for 30% of its revenue.
Investment bank and brokerage firm
faced selling pressure after New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said federal regulators have contacted his office for information on the conflicts of interest said to exist at various Wall Street firms. Merrill's Internet group was named specifically in a recent investigation by Spitzer's office. Following the probe, Merrill changed its disclosure policy in order to give investors more information about its banking relationship with companies covered by research reports. Merrill's shares finished down 5.3% at $44.65.
In the media realm,
saw its shares climb 4.8% to $31.90 after the company's first-quarter earnings results. Excluding various items, the company's earnings beat estimates, but according to generally accepted accounting principles, USA lost money, partly because of a big charge. The company's subsidiary
lost 11% a day after releasing its first-quarter report.
Separately, major newspaper publisher
said first-quarter earnings came in at $51.8 million, or 60 cents a share, compared with $40.7 million, or 47 cents a share, a year ago. The results from a year ago included a one-time charge to account for the sale of certain investments and other items. Excluding the charges, the company would have earned 72 cents a share last year. The company, which publishes such papers as the
San Jose Mercury News
, said earnings were dragged down by the continued advertising slump.
U.S. Treasury issues were higher following the durable goods report and the home sales data, with the 10-year note adding 15/32 at 98 9/32, yielding 5.10%. The long bond was the strongest issue.
Overseas markets were mixed. London's FTSE 100 was added 0.5% to 5218, and Germany's Xetra DAX lost 0.6% to 5160. Japan's Nikkei 225 finished down 0.5% at 11,673, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed up 0.5% to 11,397.