Sluggish earnings reports and a disappointing consumer confidence report conspired to push stocks lower Tuesday as the Nasdaq composite fell 43 points to close at 2,016.54.
The Dow Jones industrial average lopped off 78 points to finish at 10,454.34.
"There is a feeling, an underlying sentiment, that the market is starting to turn a little," Peter Coolidge, managing director of equity trading at Brean Murray & Co. told Reuters. "Money is coming into stocks on the feeling that stocks have been beaten up so much that they have more room to the upside."
Consumer confidence numbers slid sharply in April, dashing hopes that the slumping U.S. economy was on the road to recovery. The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said its broad gauge of consumer attitudes slipped to 109.2 in April from a downwardly revised March reading of 116.9, its sixth decline in seven months. That was much steeper than consensus forecasts for a fall to 112.
While the news indicates the economy is indeed troubled, interest-rate watchers may find the silver lining. The report makes it a little more likely that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again at its May 15 policy meeting
In earnings news, telecommunications giant AT&T (NYSE: T) gained 14 cents to $22.12 after topping earnings estimates for its first quarter. However, it warned that sales slumped and future earnings will most likely fall. AT&T Wireless (NYSE: AWE) shed 20 cents to $20.20.
Plagued by a decline in customer spending and a $2.7 billion restructuring charge, phone equipment maker Lucent Technologies (NYSE: LU) reported that its revenue is slacking off while its loss widens. Despite the hefty loss, Lucent shares finished up $1.05 to $10.25 after Salomon Smith Barney upgraded the stock from a "neutral" rating to "outperform."
Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO) dropped $1.07 to $16.26, and Nortel Networks (NYSE: NT) lost 44 cents to end at $15.50.
Fiber-optic component giant JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU) tumbled $3.34 to $20.84 after announcing plans to lay off 5,000 people, or 20 percent of its work force. The company added that its fourth-quarter earnings would fall well below current expectations and that it couldn't provide an outlook for its upcoming fiscal year.
Among widely held PC stocks, Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) shed $3.50 to $25.85, Compaq (NYSE: CPQ) slid $3.11 to $17.54 after missing estimates in its latest quarter, Gateway (NYSE: GTW) trimmed 3 cents to $18.01 and Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) closed off 22 cents to $24.03.
Internet service provider EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK) saw its first-quarter losses slow compared to a year ago, as the number of customers of high-speed services grew 34 percent compared to the fourth quarter. Its shares finished up 65 cents to $11.55.
Yahoo (Nasdaq: YHOO) inched up 5 cents to $18.01. America Online Time Warner (NYSE: AOL) sawed off 35 cents to $47.25, while Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) dropped 52 cents and $2.39 a share, respectively.
Among business-to-business stocks, FreeMarkets (Nasdaq: FMKT) dipped 99 cents to $9.30 following its report Monday night, while Commerce One (Nasdaq: CMRC) picked up 46 cents to $9.22 on a deal with Microsoft.
Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) clipped $1.17 to $29.15. Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) trimmed 26 cents to $27.34, and IBM (NYSE: IBM) closed up 67 cents to $112.67.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) shed 70 cents to close at $67.55. Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) and Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW) lost 19 cents and 49 cents, respectively.
ZDII staff and Reuters contributed to this roundup.