Tuesday was a make-of-it-what-you-will session.

The bullish spin was that the declines for major averages were relatively modest and trading volume was fairly subdued, despite a host of potential destabilizing developments. The bearish spin is that major averages failed to sustain a midday rally attempt in perhaps the first sign "dip buyers" are running out of ammunition.

In a microcosm of this something-for-everyone day, Internet leaders Yahoo! ( YHOO), Amazon.com ( AMZN) and eBay ( EBAY) continued their recent ascent. Bears said that was more proof of rampant speculation, while bulls cheered the ongoing momentum in/enthusiasm for these names.

The final conclusions from the session remain to be determined. But the contrasting viewpoints were evinced by intraday machinations for major averages.

At day's end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.5% to 8679.25 after trading as high as 8723.29 around 1:15 p.m. EDT and as low as 8647.60 at around 2:30 p.m. The S&P 500 closed down 0.3% to 942.30 vs. its intraday high of 947.51 and low of 938.91, while the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.1% to 1539.70 vs. its apex of 1548.60 and nadir of 1529.60.

Catalysts cited for the decline included renewed concerns about terrorism following the deadly attacks in Saudi Arabia; more unnerving comments by Treasury Secretary John Snow; an expanding trade deficit; disappointing revenues at Wal-Mart ( WMT); and a Merrill Lynch downgrade of several semiconductor names.

Intersil ( ISIL) and Maxim Integrated ( MXIM) each fell about 3% following the Merrill downgrade, which cited valuation concerns and helped push the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index down 0.8%.

On a more upbeat note, traders cheered the three-way deal between Avanex ( AVNX), Corning ( GLW) and Alcatel ( ALA). Avanex soared 146% after what was heralded as the beginning of some much-needed consolidation in the fiber optics sector.

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