Updated from 4:25 p.m. ESTStocks in New York closed just barely lower Tuesday, but that was enough to leave the S&P 500 at a level not seen for more than 12 years. The S&P fell 4.49 points, or 0.6%, to 696.33, its first finish below 700 since October 1996. The Nasdaq settled down 1.84 points, or 0.1%, at 1321.01. Led by a 7.8% loss in General Electric ( GE) and a 5.2% decrease in Home Depot ( HD), the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 37.27 points, or 0.6%, to 6726.02. Bargain-hunters emerged early following the selloff a day ago, but their interest faded into midsession. However, stocks rallied again in the afternoon before slipping back in the final hour. Bank of America ( BAC), at one point one of the day's best performers, pared its gain to 2 cents a share after Standard & Poor's downgraded it. The stock closed at $3.65.