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Updated from 4:14 p.m. EDT

Stocks ended little changed amid fairly light volume Tuesday, as investors continued the waiting game in front of the

Federal Reserve

meeting next week.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 32.73 points, or 0.3%, to 10,974.84, and the

S&P 500

was off 0.02 point at 1240.12. The

Nasdaq Composite

edged down 3.35 points, or 0.16%, to 2107.06. The 10-year Treasury bond fell 8/32 in price to yield 5.16%, while the dollar rose against the euro and fell against the yen.

The Dow was supported by gains of 1.4% or more in


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The Nasdaq was pressured by a 0.7% decline on the Philadelphia Semiconductor Sector index. Earlier, Prudential Equity Group upgraded the semiconductor sector to favorable from unfavorable, and raised its rating on component

Applied Materials

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to overweight from neutral. The stock finished up 0.9% but failed to support the broader sector.

"Investors were biding time before next week's Fed meeting, which will be the case until then," said Paul Nolte, director of investments with Hinsdale Associates. "There are very few catalysts to send us higher. We're still debating whether the Fed is focused more on inflation or on slowing economic growth. This is an unusual rate cycle in that we've had no pauses since it began. Investors are constantly guessing what will come next."

About 1.50 billion shares moved on the

New York Stock Exchange

, and on the Nasdaq 1.61 billion shares changed hands. Decliners beat advancers 9 to 7.

Nolte said that the absence of economic data on Wednesday could mean another low-volume day.

Headlining the news was a Commerce Department report showing that U.S. housing starts rose 5% in May to an annualized rate of 1.96 million. The increase was greater than an expected 1.1% gain. Building permits were lower for the month, down 2.1%. The data come a day after the National Association of Home Builders said an index of builder sentiment fell last month to its lowest level in more than a decade.

To view Gregg Greenberg's video take on today's market, click here

"This is one more piece of economic news that markets will ponder in terms of the Fed raising interest rates," said Peter Cardillo, chief market strategist with S.W. Bach. "It confirms that the Fed will raise rates until the economy slows down. However, there was a revision lower to April's data while building permits are down in May. We may be poised for a soft landing, which is good news."

The major averages were coming off two consecutive pullbacks. On Monday, selling accelerated as the day wore on, and mining and energy stocks were pummeled. The Dow lost 72.44 points, or 0.66%, to 10,942.11, having been up by as many as 43 points and down 107. The S&P 500 fell 11.40 points, or 0.91%, to 1240.14, and the Nasdaq dropped 19.54 points, or 0.92%, to 2110.42.

Ken Tower, chief market strategist with CyberTrader, said traders were still digesting the big advances of Wednesday and Thursday last week. "We could still see the market turn higher," he said. "However, we need a catalyst to help people feel more comfortable about this market."

Oil futures eased, with the expiring July contract finishing the session down 4 cents to $68.94 a barrel. The August contract will become the newly fronted contract on Wednesday. Precious metals were higher, as gold futures finished up $8.10 to $580.50 an ounce. Silver added 30 cents to $10.27 an ounce and copper edged up 19 cents to $3.17 a pound.

The resource and metals sectors advanced after getting crushed the previous session. The Amex Gold Bugs index gained 2.9%, the Philadelphia Gold and Silver index was higher by 2.2%. Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector index dropped 2.3%, continuing Monday's 3.9% slide, while the Amex Oil Service Sector index slid 0.1%.

General Electric

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said it agreed to pay $390 million for Swedish firm

Biacore International

, a maker of machines that study protein interactions.


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owns 41% of Biacore.

GE finished the session down 2 cents, or 0.1%, to 33.70.

Retail giant


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said that same-stores sales for June are expected now at the top of its previous forecast range of a 3% to 5% increase. Shares gave up 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $49.04.

Meanwhile, Dow component


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said it will join with Sinopec to build a network of drive-through restaurants in China. Shares rose 11 cents, or 0.3%, to $32.96.

In analyst actions,


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was upgraded to overweight by J.P. Morgan.

E.W. Scripps

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was downgraded to hold at Deutsche Bank on concerns about ratings at the Food Network slowing growth in cable network advertising.

Costco closed up $1.33, or 2.5%, to $54.88. Scripps fell $1.31, or 2.8%, to $45.56.

Banc of America Securities cut the price targets of

XM Satellite Radio



Sirius Satellite Radio

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to $22 and $4.50, respectively. The firm left a buy rating for XM Satellite Radio and a neutral rating for Sirius unchanged.

XM Satellite Radio was higher by 17 cents, or 1.3%, to $13.40. Sirius tacked on 3 cents, or 0.8%, to close at $4.01.

Overseas markets were mixed. London's FTSE 100 was higher by 0.6% to 5658, and Germany's Xetra DAX added 1% to 5494. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei lost 1.4% overnight to 14,648, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 1% to 15,609.