Investors moved cautiously today, nudging blue chips higher but pushing tech stocks lower.
In light trading following the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 2.42 at 10.802.24 at 1 p.m., The Nasdaq composite index fell 56.53 to 2,368.85, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index declined 11.17 to 1,290.36.
"We have to wait and see how bad the March quarter is," said Jay Nakahara, manager of the $1.1 billion Invesco GT Technology Fund, who expects more companies to warn about slower-than-expected sales and profit growth starting a few weeks from now. "The next batch of news is probably negative," he said.
Retailing stocks strongly boosted the Dow.
Wal-Mart rose $1.79 to $54.15 after reporting fourth-quarter results that beat Wall Street's expectations by a penny. The discount retailer said quarterly earnings topped $2 billion for the first time even as the economy slowed.
Retail is "the first group to do well in a friendly interest-rate environment," and the Federal Reserve cut rates twice last month, said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co. in Boston.
Meanwhile, Home Depot advanced $2.36 to $45.36 despite warning that it is still suffering soft sales and weak prices. Its fourth-quarter earnings met analysts' lowered expectations.
Best Buy climbed $3.05 to $43.06. Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Peter Caruso raised the largest U.S. electronics retailer to "buy" from "accumulate."
Investors also bid up stocks in so-called safe haven or defensive sectors, such as pharmaceuticals and consumer products. Johnson & Johnson rose 97 cents to $95.50, and Procter & Gamble advanced 65 cents to $75.49.
PMC-Sierra slid $5 to $47.50 and Broadcom Corp. fell $5.81 to $68.31. Lehman Brothers analyst Arnab Chanda cut his forecast for 2001 earnings at the communications chipmakers by 18 percent and 19 percent, respectively.
Dealings in the riskier and long-battered technology sector were mixed. Microsoft was up 88 cents at $58.19, while Intel slipped 88 cents to $33.50.
Cisco declined $1.23 to $27.02. Shares of the biggest network- equipment maker trade for less than half their price a year ago.
JDS Uniphase slumped $3.13 to $32.69. The No. 1 maker of fiber-optic components has fallen more than 70 percent since August.
Nortel Networks fell 56 cents to $19.44. Juniper Networks fell $2.58 to $77.42. The world's No.2 maker of high-capacity computer networking equipment has shed 54 percent in the past six months.
Commerce One whose software lets companies buy and sell goods on the Internet, lost 75 cents to $23.25, having more than halved in value in the last six months.
Applied Micro Circuits fell $4.44 to $39.38. The maker of chips to speed data traffic on fiber-optic networks was also cut to "buy" from "strong buy" by Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Charles Glavin.