The Nasdaq composite index slipped 17.72 points to 1,964.53 after fluctuating between losses and gains in the morning session, and the Dow Jones industrial average lost 3.74 points to close at 10,412.17.
The technology-heavy index has been hanging around the 2,000 mark for about a week now, after closing below the psychologically key level Wednesday. Though stronger-than-expected retail sales boosted tech stocks earlier in the day, they soon fell again.
The Commerce Department's report that retail sales had remained flat for July, instead of falling the 0.2 percent economists had expected, was taken as a good sign for the economy overall.
"The willingness of the consumer to spend is the first step to an economic recovery," said Merrill Lynch analyst Bruce Steinberg in a research note.
"Consumer spending was healthy in July even before the tax rebate checks really started to arrive," Steinberg said. Economists have predicted that as more rebate checks start to arrive in August and September, an even larger boost in spending can be expected.
In other news, investors boosted the shares of wireless-phone makers Ericsson, off 20 cents to $5.45, and Nokia, off 14 cents to $19.23, Tuesday following signs of a recovery in the wireless sector. According to recent reports on Texas Instruments, up 8 cents to $ 34.86, and TriQuint Semiconductor, up $1.11 to $ 23.21, the tough times for wireless companies could be nearing an end.
CNET's Wireless index was up around 2 percent.
eBay was up 64 cents to $61.37, and AOL Time Warner fell $3.34 to $39.65 after news that the two companies have decided to extend their marketing agreement until 2004.
Intel was off 21 cents to $30.35, following a new study that predicts the overabundance of semiconductors could last until the middle of next year.
Among companies scheduled to report earnings after the bell, Applied Materials fell $1.19 to $43.65, and BEA Systems was up 54 cents to $18.60.
Other heavily traded techs include Microsoft, down $1.14 to $64.69; Oracle, off 14 cents to $15.55; Cisco Systems, off 56 cents to $17.65; and Sun Microsystems, which shed 48 cents to $15.89.
Amazon.com rose 41 cents to $10.53, and Yahoo fell 66 cents to $14.98.
Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.