NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The major U.S. equity averages finished lower Tuesday as investors piled out of the technology, energy and financial sectors in the final hour of trading. It was a sour close to a topsy-turvy session. Stocks sank at the start of the day but rallied back into positive territory as strong earnings from Home Depot ( HD) stoked optimism about the housing market. The tech sector was weak throughout the day and the selling accelerated into the close. The broad move lower came against the backdrop of ongoing investor worries about the eurozone's stability and the ability of the U.S. government to address the fiscal cliff by the end of the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly 59 points, or 0.46%, to settle at 12,756. The blue-chip index, which ranged from 12,748-12,898 on the day, has now fallen in four of the past five sessions. Breadth turned negative within the Dow with losers ahead of winners, 24 to 6. The biggest percentage decliners were Caterpillar ( CAT), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), Intel ( INTC), and Microsoft ( MSFT). Microsoft ( MSFT) shares finished off 3.3% following news that Steven Sinofsky, formerly president of Windows and Windows Live, has left the software giant. The company didn't provide a reason for Sinofsky's surprise departure, which comes just weeks after Microsoft launched Windows 8. Cisco ( CSCO) shares finished down incrementally ahead of the networking giant's fiscal first-quarter report. The stock was surging nearly 7% in extended trading after the company beat Wall Street's expectations on both the top and bottom lines. The biggest gainers within the Dow were du Pont ( DD), Home Depot, and Walt Disney ( DIS). Home Depot shares popped 3.6% after the company posted third-quarter results that beat Wall Street forecasts and hiked its full-year guidance as the home-improvement retailer got a boost from the gradually improving U.S. housing market conditions. The Atlanta-based company also raised its full-year outlook to sales growth of 5.2% and earnings of $3.03 a share after posting quarterly earnings of 74 cents a share on revenue of $18.13 billion, versus the average analyst expectation of earnings of 70 cents a share on revenue of $17.92 billion.
The S&P 500 slumped nearly 6 points, or 0.40%, to settle at 1374.53, while the Nasdaq dropped more than 20 points, or 0.70%, to finish at 2884. In addition to tech, energy, and financials, other weak sectors included basic materials, conglomerates and capital goods. Only consumer non-cyclicals and utilities finished in the green. Stocks got off to a weak start on Tuesday as uncertainties about the timeline of Greece's next tranche of bailout money and a deal on the U.S. fiscal cliff rattled investor confidence. U.S. lawmakers now have seven weeks to hammer out a budget and avoid the fiscal cliff -- a set of automatic federal tax increases and spending cuts set to occur in January -- a situation that could lead the country back into a recession. Still "in the near term, the U.S. economy faces significant downside risks from the intensification of the fiscal restraint that is likely to occur even if policymakers resolve most of the 'fiscal cliff,'" warned Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs. "Under our baseline estimate for the shape of a fiscal agreement -- which involves an end to the payroll tax cut, an end to the upper-income Bush tax cuts, and various smaller forms of restraint -- fiscal policy at the federal, state, and local level will subtract around 1-3/4 percentage points from real GDP growth in the first half of 2013, roughly 1 percentage point more than in 2012." Meanwhile, a meeting of eurozone finance ministers concluded without any concrete decisions on whether and when to unlock the next tranche of bailout money for Greece, though there was an agreement to give Greece two more years to fix its deficit. On the economic data front, the ICSC/Goldman Sachs retail index found same-store sales increasing 0.7% in the week ended Nov. 10. The advance was driven by restocking in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy. Sales rose at a soft rate of 1.8% year over year. The Redbook's same-store sales index also showed an improvement in the week ended Nov. 10, rising by 1.6% from last year but the growth was considered tepid.
Also, the National Federation of Independent Business reported that its small-business optimism index rose to 93.1 in October from 92.8 in September, compared with the average analyst expectation of a print of 92.5. The federal budget for October came in at a deficit of $120 billion, wider than expectations for a $113 billion deficit. The FTSE 100 in London settled up 0.32%, while the DAX in Germany finished up 0.08% on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei average settled down 0.18% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed lower by 1.13%. The ZEW German economic-expectations index showed a decline in November versus the forecasts for an improvement. Gold for December delivery slid $6.10 to settle at $1,724.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while December crude oil contracts fell 19 cents to close at $85.38. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged, stalling the yield at 1.594%. The dollar was up incrementally, according to the
U.S. dollar index. In corporate news, Dick's Sporting Goods ( DKS) shares rose 4.7% after the company announced better-than-expected third-quarter earnings. Same-store sales grew 5.1%. Michael Kors ( KORS) shares bumped up 0.85% after the luxury goods maker reported better-than-expected quarterly results and lifted its full-year earnings projection, and reported strength in its flagship brand. Yahoo! ( YHOO) is preparing to launch a major overhaul of Yahoo Mail, which sources told AllThingsD said has a cleaner, "more Gmail-like" look. Citing sources, AllThingsD said the overhaul has been initiated by new CEO Marissa Mayer and is being made to better compete with the fast-growing mail offering from Google. Shares rose 1.9%. TJX ( TJX) shares gained 2.7% after the off-price apparel and home fashions retailer increased its full-year projection by a penny after topping third-quarter expectations. The company said customer traffic was up at all divisions in the U.S., Canada and Europe, driving comparable-store sales increases. Shares of Hologic ( HOLX) slid 0.69% after the medical products supplier catering to the health care needs of women provided lower-than-expected current quarter outlook and reported earnings per share that were in line with estimates -- Written by Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York. >To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse. Follow @Commodity_Bull