Prices fell in early afternoon trading as investors, disappointed by the Federal Reserve's stand on interest rates, had little reason to make any major commitments to stocks.
At 1 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 112.11 at 10,791.21. The Nasdaq composite index declined 2.34 to 2,425.38, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10.96 to 1,307.84.
Investors were still unsettled by congressional testimony Tuesday from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who indicated interest rate cuts will be less aggressive than investors wanted. After first buying Tuesday on Greenspan's comments, investors began selling amid growing concerns about how long it will take for the economy to regain momentum.
But analysts said one positive sign in Wednesday's dealings was the fact that blue chips slipped further than tech stocks. That's a sign that investors are more comfortable buying riskier high-tech issues, believing that the economy will improve more quickly.
The tech sector, which so far has suffered the weakest earnings in the slowing economy, was still mostly lower today. Dell Computer lost 81 cents to trade at $21.44, and Microsoft fell $1.01 to $57.17.
Among blue chips, Merck fell $1.12 to $79.63, and Procter & Gamble slipped 20 cents to $74.35. Citigroup was off 36 cents at $54.23. All three stocks are Dow components.
ConAgra dropped $5.31 to $19.55. The producer of Armour meats and Hunts sauces said profit will be 18 cents to 20 cents a share in the current quarter, less than half the year-earlier quarter's 41 cents, because of the slowing economy and rising energy and promotional expenses. It also said earnings for the year ending May 31 will decline as much as 16 percent. Analysts had projected an 11 percent increase.
Whole Foods slid $10.38 to $46.13. The biggest U.S. natural-foods grocer said this year's profit will be lower than forecast because of higher utility costs and lower-than-expected sales growth.
Applied Materials rose $1.75 to $43. The biggest maker of equipment used to build semiconductors said fiscal second-quarter sales and earnings will trail forecasts as orders declined. The stock has fallen 64 percent from its April peak, so investors may already have priced in the decline in orders.
Intel climbed 63 cents to $33.06, while Micron Technology gained $1.25 to $42.75.
Sycamore Networks gained $1.94 to $24.50. The maker of fiber-optic equipment returned to profitability as fiscal second-quarter sales soared, though revenue for the rest of the year may fall short of earlier forecasts.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts climbed 50 cents to $68.19. The operator of doughnut shops said it will split its stock 2-for-1. The shares have more than tripled since Krispy Kreme's initial stock sale in April.
GoTo.com rose 31 cents to $11. The Internet search service said it had a fourth-quarter loss, excluding acquisition-related costs, of 34 cents a share. It was expected to lose 38 cents.
Coldwater Creek, a direct-mail retailer, fell $16.81 to $18.50 after it said profit for the current quarter will fall short of forecasts. It expects to earn 4 cents to 7 cents a share, less than the 66-cent average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by First Call.
TD Waterhouse Group, the No. 2 online broker, fell $1.23 to $13.17. Steve McDonald, chief executive of TD Waterhouse, said in a press release it "is likely that we will not achieve our goals" in the current fiscal year, including a target of 1.2 million new accounts.
Boeing rose 83 cents to $61.55. The largest aircraft maker won a $4 billion order for 20 777-200 jetliners from Singapore Airlines Ltd.
Lear advanced $1.90 to $32.86. Goldman, Sachs & Co. analyst Gary Lapidus raised the largest maker of automotive seats and interiors to "recommend list" from "market outperform." The stock is "significantly undervalued" and could reach $46 in 12 months, up from $30.96.