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Stocks Overcome Soft Profits

Blue chips are little changed, but tech stocks manage to rise.

Updated from 4:13 p.m. EDT

Tech stocks rose Tuesday while blue chips were little changed, as traders appeared generally unaffected by weak results from homebuilder

Lennar

(LEN) - Get Report

and profit warnings from the retail and energy sectors.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

started the day in negative territory before pushing above the flatline, closing up 19.59 points, or 0.14%, at 13,778.65. The

S&P 500

lost 0.52 point, or 0.03%, to 1517.21. The

Nasdaq Composite

climbed 15.50 points, or 0.58%, to 2683.45.

"We've been expecting a pullback because the market is extended. We ran up too far, too fast," said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist with Windham Financial. "The

Federal Reserve's

50-basis-point rate cut put a floor in the market. Since then, there has been a lot of buying on the dips, which is why we've had this uneven trading."

Breadth was slightly negative. On the

New York Stock Exchange

, 3.20 billion shares changed hands, as decliners topped advancers by a 10-to-7 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq reached 1.90 billion shares, with losers outpacing winners nearly 4 to 3.

Earlier, Lennar posted a third-quarter loss of $513.9 million, or $3.25 a share, reversing a year-ago profit due to write-offs and adjustments. Revenue plummeted to $2.34 billion from $4.18 billion, falling short of consensus estimates. Lennar lost 96 cents, or 4%, to $23.22.

Lennar's results came on the same day that the National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales for August fell 4.3% to 5.50 million annualized units, as expected. Existing-home sales are now at their lowest in five years.

Also on the economic front, the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index slumped to a reading of 99.8 in September from a revised 105.6 in August. It was the lowest reading on consumer confidence in two years.

"The turmoil of the subprime crisis has shaken business and consumer confidence," said Bruce McCain, senior vice president and head of strategy for Key Private Bank's Investment Management unit. "Still, because the economy was actually gathering strength before the current crisis, we believe the Fed cut improves what were already reasonably good odds that the economy will avoid recession."

The day's action was also influenced by warnings from two big retailers. After the last close,

TheStreet Recommends

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

said it now expects fiscal-year earnings at the low end or slightly below its previous guidance due to regional drought conditions hurting its outdoor offerings. Lowe's slumped $2.04, or 6.7%, to $28.51.

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

, meanwhile, reduced its forecast for September same-store sales growth to between 1.5% and 2.5%, compared with the previous projection of 4% to 6%. The stock dropped $2.95, or 4.6%, to close at $61.35.

Elsewhere, energy concern

BP's

(BP) - Get Report

chief executive, Tony Hayward, said the company's third-quarter results are expected to be "dreadful." BP fell by $1.91, or 2.7%, to $69.33.

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

and the United Auto Workers union headed back to negotiations on a new labor deal, but about 73,000 workers remained on strike for a second day at GM plants. Shares finished down 32 cents, or 0.9%, to $34.42.

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

rose 1.7% after

The Wall Street Journal

reported that the software giant is considering buying a stake in the social-networking site Facebook for $300 million to $500 million.

The software giant was also celebrating the launch of the video game

Halo 3

, a title that's expected to boost sales of the Xbox 360 console. Microsoft was higher by 48 cents at $29.56.

Treasury prices were mixed on the long-end. The 10-year note rose 4/32 in price to yield 4.61%, and the 30-year bond eased by 2/32 in price, yielding 4.89%. The dollar continued its decline, hitting another record low against the euro.

Commodity prices ended lower. The front-month November crude contract dropped $1.42 to end at $79.53 a barrel, and gold and silver futures also lost ground.

Overseas, foreign markets were mostly weaker. Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.6% overnight, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.5%. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 and Germany's Xetra Dax both fell roughly 1%.