Updated from 4:12 p.m. ESTTech shares continued their retreat Tuesday as investors sitting on last year's big gains continued to whittle their positions in the absence of any positive catalysts. Blue-chips circled to an uneventful landing. The Nasdaq lost 8.1 points, or 0.42%, to 1901, giving up marginal gains in the last few minutes of trading when new jitters surfaced about violence in the Middle East. The S&P 500 shed 1.49 points, or 0.14%, at 1093.91; and the Dow Jones Industrial Average -- which traded in an 84-point range through the day -- closed down 1.11 points, or 0.01%, at 10,063.64. Volume on the New York Stock Exchange totaled about 1.4 billion shares, with advancers outnumbering decliners by about 3 to 2. On the Nasdaq, 1.8 billion shares changed hands, and advancers had a slight edge over decliners. The Nasdaq has now given up more than 12% since peaking on Jan. 28 at 2153. Most of Tuesday's decline came in the last few minutes of trading when wire services reported that gunshots were fired in the Gaza Strip. Nobody was reported injured in the incident, which again underscored the market's sensitivity to geopolitical unrest, particularly on slow news days. "For the most part, we're oversold in the short-term here," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies. "Now, we've had a two-week period where if you were looking for an excuse to sell, you had it, and a lot of people did. "Not a whole lot changed in the world necessarily but the viewpoint of the world did change in terms of what the event risks were out there," Hogan said. "That caused a bit of a buyer's strike, but typically we get these things overdone." The worst of Tuesday's action coincided with the release of a report in which a federal panel found that both the Clinton and Bush administrations failed to take action against al Qaeda in the months and years leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. The Nasdaq briefly slipped below 1900 on the news before bouncing back, reflecting a growing view in the market that nonfinancial stimuli have lately gotten too much attention. "If you've been watching the market pull back and wondering when a good time to step in is, things have come down enough now that this is a good place to start putting a toe in the water," said Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist at the Maxim Group. "At this point, I'd say we're in the ninth inning of this selloff. We're a batter or two away from the intermediate-term bottom. "It's always a fool's errand to try to guess exact tops and exact bottoms," Ritholtz added, "but when we see selling as extreme as yesterday, it makes us think this is working its way to its conclusion." In other markets, the 10-year Treasury note ended, yielding 3.71%, while the dollar was lower against the euro and the yen. Crude oil and gold prices broke even. Overseas, the FTSE in London closed down 0.3% to 4318, while Germany's Xetra DAX lost a fraction at 3729. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.3% to 11,281, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.3% to 12,588.
In corporate news, tech shares got an early boost when Janney Montgomery Securities upgraded Cisco ( CSCO) to buy from hold, saying the networking giant stands to make further market inroads in home networking and storage. Shares closed up a cent at $22.36. Goldman Sachs ( GS) reported record first-quarter earnings that blew away expectations. The investment bank reported earnings of $2.50 a share, vs. a consensus estimate of $1.66 a share. Last year, Goldman earned $1.29 a share in its first quarter. Its shares finished up 15 cents, or 0.1%, at $101.45. PalmOne ( PLMO) posted a narrower third-quarter loss late Monday on strong sales of its Treo 600 combination phone and digital organizer. The handheld computer maker reported a loss of $9.3 million, or 20 cents a share, compared with a loss of $172.3 million, or $5.93 a share, in the same quarter last year. Its shares ended up $4.15, or 30%, at $17.99. A group of major public pension funds led by the California Public Employees Retirement System extended an olive branch to embattled Disney ( DIS) CEO Michael Eisner by asking to meet with the company's board to discuss its performance and strategy. Calpers, along with other state pension systems, has been a leading critic of Eisner's recent record of managing the company. Disney shares closed up 20 cents, or 0.8%, at $25.10. Limited Brands ( LTD) raised its current-quarter guidance after Monday's close, citing strong performances at its Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret stores. The company, which owns several retail chain stores, said it will earn 11 cents to 13 cents a share. Its shares closed up 39 cents, or 2%, at $19.68. Family Dollar Stores ( FDO) reported record second-quarter earnings and beat analysts' forecasts by a penny. The company earned $81.4 million, or 47 cents a share, compared with $72.7 million, or 42 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. Sales rose 11.7% to $1.40 billion. Its shares closed up 99 cents, or 3%, at $33.90. Wednesday promises to snap a three-session lull in economic news with a report on durable goods orders due out from the Census Bureau at 8:30 a.m. EST. Economists expect the value of orders for durable goods received by manufacturers in February to have increased 1.2%, compared to January's decrease of 2.3%. Then at 10:00 a.m. EST, the government is expected to report that new home sales in February totaled 1.100 million, down slightly from January's reported 1.106 million. No major earnings releases are scheduled before the opening bell. After Wednesday's close, Micron Technologies ( MU) is expected to report a second-quarter loss of 7 cents a share compared to last year's loss of 83 cents a share.