Updated from 4:36 p.m. EST

Blue-chips and tech stocks weren't able to hold a late rally Tuesday, and the major averages ended the session lower as a spate of accounting and debt concerns lingered on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended with a loss of 1.6 points at 9678. The Nasdaq shed 17 points, or 0.9%, to 1839, and the S&P 500 was off 4.4 points, or 0.4%, at 1090.

The wireless sector was under heavy pressure following an anemic subscriber outlook from Sprint PCS ( PCS). The company lost $2.77, or 20%, to $10.99 after saying it will add 3 million new subscribers next year instead of 3.7 million. Meanwhile, shares of Nextel Communications ( NXTL) fought back from an earlier 30% swoon after the company affirmed subscriber growth and said it doesn't expect to breach any loan covenants in the foreseeable future. The shares ended down $1.58, or 23%, to $5.05.

Williams Communications ( WCG) fell 15% to 85 cents, a day after the company posted a big loss and indicated that its banks believe it is in violation of some of its credit agreements. Its former parent, Williams Cos. ( WMB), which could be on the hook for Williams Communications' debt, lost 11% to $14.53.

A big warning before the bell from Ciena ( CIEN), a network-equipment maker, set the tone for the broader tech sector. The stock dropped 10% to $9 after the company said it expects to lose 19 cents to 22 cents a share in the first quarter on sales of $160 million, an estimate that was well below analysts' expectations.

General Electric ( GE) tried to breathe a little life into the market, trading up $1.21, or 3.5%, at $36.21 after reaffirming its earlier guidance. GE also urged investors to judge the company by "performance" rather than "faith," in an evident reference to the troubles plaguing another conglomerate, Tyco International ( TYC). Tyco was under selling pressure again, losing $6.80, or 22.7%, at $23.10.

Pharmacia ( PHA) slipped 0.7% to $39.13 after the company said fourth-quarter earnings declined because of increased marketing expenditures and merger-related costs.

Elsewhere, analysts at Bear Stearns downgraded Palm ( PALM) to neutral from attractive citing problems associated with the company's new wireless device, the Palm i705. The firm trimmed its 2002 and 2003 earnings estimates and lowered its price target, and shares of Palm fell 8% to $3.07. Irish drugmaker Elan ( ELN) endured another difficult session as its shares dropped 86 cents, or 5.8%, to $13.99. The company warned Monday that 2002 earnings will come in well below expectations because of delays in launching new products.

Meanwhile, Cephalon ( CEPH) was rising after the company defended its accounting practices . The stock was recently up $1.76, or 3.1%, to $57.81.

PC makers Hewlett-Packard ( HWP) and Compaq ( CPQ) have scheduled shareholder votes on their proposed merger for the middle of March. The announcement comes on the heels of the European Commission's approval of the deal last week. Both stocks ended modestly lower.

Critical Path ( CPTH) posted a fourth-quarter loss of 21 cents a share and said it expects to achieve positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the fourth quarter. Shares of Critical Path shed 66 cents, or 23%, to $2.58.

Treasuries, like U.S. equities, had trouble settling on a direction during the session but were mostly higher around 4 p.m. EST. The 10-year Treasury note was up 3/32 to 100 27/32, yielding 4.89%.

Overseas stocks fell after Monday's selloff in New York with London's FTSE 100 losing 1.4% to 5093 and Germany's Xetra DAX off 1.5% at 4908. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.6% to 9476 and the Hang Seng lost 1.1% to close at 10,609.

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