Updated from 4:04 p.m. EST

Stocks briefly crossed into positive territory late in the trading day Tuesday, but the major averages couldn't overcome the selling pressure that built for most of the session following weak consumer confidence data and seemingly false claims about a U.S. military operation in Iraq.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished with a loss of 30.45 points, or 0.3%, at 10,115.26. The Nasdaq shed 3.02 points, or 0.2%, to 1766.86, and the S&P 500 slipped less than a point to close at 1109.38.

The Conference Board said consumer confidence fell to 94.1 in February from 97.3 in January. Economists had been expecting a slightly less-steep decline.

A slew of profit reports and outlooks from high-profile retail businesses kicked off the session. Home Depot ( HD) beat fourth-quarter earnings expectations by 2 cents, posting a net profit of 30 cents a share. Sales for the quarter increased 29% to $13.49 billion, also ahead of the consensus. The retail giant said it expects to meet the first-quarter earnings target of 32 cents a share. Shares moved higher at the open, but closed down 56 cents, or 1.1%, to $51.51.

Pier 1 Imports ( PIR) offered its own optimistic forecast, raising its fourth-quarter estimate to 48 cents to 49 cents a share. The consensus is 45 cents. The home furnishing retailer said sales are trending well above initial projections. The stock jumped $1.83, or 10.4%, to $19.40.

Federated Department Stores ( FD) topped fourth-quarter estimates, reporting earnings of $1.90 a share, 3 cents higher than expected. The company also raised its continuing operations earnings target for 2002 to a range of $3.30 to $3.55 a share, compared with the current consensus of $3.39. But the company did lower expectations for the current quarter. Shares rose $2.64, or 6.8%, to $41.66.

Investors received more good news from the homebuilding sector when Toll Brothers ( TOL) blew away first-quarter earnings expectations, posting a net profit of $1.20 a share, well ahead of the consensus estimate of $1.05. The company said that due to backlog and increasing demand, it expects 2002 results to exceed expectations and said 2003 earnings could reach $6 a share. Toll's shares added $3.32, or 7.6%, to $47.30.

General Electric ( GE) faced selling pressure after former Enron chief executive Jeffrey Skilling said at a hearing in Washington that GE Capital invested in a number of offshore partnerships with Enron. The Dow component lost 45 cents, or 1.2%, at $38.75.

Hanover Compressor ( HC) was hammered in the early session, but the stock bounced back in regular trading to gain 14% to $16.02. Hanover said it received an inquiry from the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding its accounting records, and the company will restate financial results for 2000 and 2001. On top of that, the company warned that fourth-quarter earnings will come in weaker than expected. Hanover also plans to lower its capital expenditures for 2002.

Calpine ( CPN) was on the move as well, trading up 14.2% to $7.80, a day after Standard & Poor's said it hadn't downgraded the energy company's debt ratings. Monday afternoon, S&P initially said it was cutting Calpine before retracting the statement.

Overseas, stocks were mostly higher with London's FTSE 100 gaining 0.8% to 5139 and Germany's Xetra DAX up 0.7% at 4898. Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.9% to 10,203, and the Hang Seng closed up 0.5% at 10,547.

U.S. Treasury issues were decidedly lower. Around 4 p.m. EST, the 10-year note was lower by 16/32 to 99 23/32, yielding 4.91%.

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