Updated from 4:06 p.m. EDT

Stocks ended mixed Thursday as economic weakness, especially in manufacturing, vied with bargain-hunting in tech stocks.

In a seesaw session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 25.84 points, or 0.3%, to 8454.25, after falling more than 100 points earlier in the day. The Nasdaq rose 8.25 points, or 0.6%, to 1472.56. The S&P 500 shed 0.62 point, or 0.1%, to 916.30.

Volume was light, which can increase market volatility. On Thursday, the New York Stock Exchange traded 1.392 billion shares, while the Nasdaq Stock Market traded 1.442 billion shares. On Wednesday, both surpassed 1.6 billion shares for the day.

Stocks began May with two consecutive months of gains. In April, they posted their biggest one-month jump since last October. The Dow was up a little more than 6% last month and currently is up about 1.7% on the year.

Economic data were disappointing Thursday. Initial jobless claims fell to 448,000 last week from 461,000 a week earlier, but the four-week average was at its highest level in a year. Productivity grew at a 1.6% pace in the first quarter, above the 0.7% rate in the fourth quarter of 2002, but less than the 2% analysts were expecting.

Also, the ISM Index for April fell to 45.4, with new orders stumbling to 45.2, showing clear economic weakness, something indicated in Wednesday's release of PMI numbers. Meanwhile, construction spending dropped 1%, compared with expectations of 0.2% growth. In a sign of how budget cuts at the state level are rippling through the economy, public spending dropped 3.5%.

Among Thursday's major corporate news, 20 former employees of Qwest Communications reportedly are being probed by the SEC and may face civil charges. The agency is looking into the receipt of so-called friends and family shares by Qwest employees from company clients, and possible side deals between Qwest accounting staffers and partners in capacity swaps. Qwest said it is cooperating with the probe, which was reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, Visa USA joined Mastercard International in agreeing to a settlement in a suit brought by retailers who argued they shouldn't be forced to treat debit cards like credit cards. Visa will pay $2 billion, most of it over a period of years. Visa had been under pressure to settle since Mastercard entered a similar deal on Monday.

The settlement could be beneficial for Wal-Mart ( WMT) and Sears ( S), which initiated the suit, and also impact J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM), Bank of America ( BAC) and Citigroup ( C), which could pay lower fees as a result. Bank of America was the only one in the green, ending up 0.3% to 74.25.

ExxonMobil ( XOM) said first-quarter earnings more than tripled, thanks to the war-related spike in the price of oil. The company posted $63.8 billion in first-quarter revenue. Shares gained 0.8% to $35.48.

On the media front, USA Interactive ( USAI) posted first-quarter pro forma earnings of 16 cents a share, topping estimates by 2 cents. Going forward, the company said it would meet or beat 2003 guidance, but said growth would slow a bit from the first quarter. Shares gained 9.1% to $32.68.

Online travel agency Expedia ( EXPE) reported first-quarter earnings of 30 cents a share, beating estimates by 7 cents, on a 70% revenue increase. Shares jumped 9.1% to $63.10.

A third Barry Diller property, Hotels.com ( ROOM), meanwhile, reported first-quarter earnings that topped estimates by 3 cents a share, on a 67% revenue increase. Shares rose 9% to $77.97.

Elsewhere, Fox Entertainment ( FOX) shares gained 0.4% to $25.50 after Morgan Stanley upped the company to overweight from equal weight.

Clothing retailer Liz Claiborne ( LIZ) reported first-quarter earnings of 59 cents a share, which topped estimates by 2 cents. Shares gained 3 cents to $32.56.

Other retailers received some bad news. Lehman Brothers downgraded the sector to neutral from positive, lowering its opinion on Talbot's ( TLB) and Too ( TOO), better known as Limited, Too. Talbot's fell 4.8% to $27.27, while Too dropped 3.6% to $17.90.

In other analyst moves, CIBC downgraded four enterprise software companies, lowering JDA Software ( JDAS), Chordant Software ( CHRD), i2 Technologies ( ITWOE) and Manugistics ( MANU). Of the four, Manugistics and JDA were the worst, off 6.1% and 2.8%, respectively.

Elsewhere in software, Adobe ( ADBE) raised its profit and revenue estimates for the current second quarter. Shares gained 6.3% to $36.71.

TXU ( TXU) said first-quarter earnings fell more than 80% following asset impairments and accounting changes. The number still beat analyst's estimates. TXU fell 3.2% to $19.28.

Mesa Air ( MESA) said second-quarter earnings were 13 cents a share, better than expected, on a 15% jump in revenue. Shares rose 10.2% to $5.93.

Insurer Chubb ( CB) posted higher profit with the help of investment gains and higher insurance rates. Shares rose 12.3% to $59.39.

Smith Barney tweaked its Recommended List, adding Starwood Hotels ( HOT), while dropping Fifth Third Bancorp ( FITB). Starwood dipped 2% to $26.30, while Fifth Third dropped 1% to $48.74.

Treasuries were higher, with the yield on the 10-year note down 8 basis points at 3.85%. Crude oil prices for April delivery were up. The dollar was weaker against the yen and stronger against the euro.

Overseas markets were weak, with London's FTSE 100 closing down 1.2% at 3880. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed 0.6% higher at 7875, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3% to 8717.

On Wednesday, the Dow ended down 22 points, or 0.3%, at 8480. The S&P 500 fell a point, or 0.1%, to 916.92, while the Nasdaq dropped 7 points, or 0.5%, to 1464.

If you liked this article you might like

Check the Math on Air Fares

Check the Math on Air Fares

US Airways Circles as Pilots Bicker

US Airways Circles as Pilots Bicker

Departure of Delta's Song Unit Boss Stirs Questions

Departure of Delta's Song Unit Boss Stirs Questions

Boeing Boosts Jet Deliveries

Boeing Boosts Jet Deliveries

CEO Gilmartin Will Survive Recall

CEO Gilmartin Will Survive Recall