NEW YORK – The Nasdaq and the Dow managed to eke out mild gains but the broader market slipped on Wednesday as investors were torn between profit warnings from the likes of software maker Comverse Technology Inc. and an urge to hunt for bargains.
``Investors are wondering what will be the next shoe to drop in their portfolio,'' said Guy Truicko, a portfolio manager at Unity Management, which oversees more than $1 billion. ``But it will get better. There's light at the end of that tunnel.''
The market wobbled between gains and losses during the session after tumbling to 12-week lows on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 65.38 points to close at 10,241.02 after losing as many as 80 points in the morning. The technology-dominated Nasdaq Composite Index rose 9.21 points to end the day at 1,972.03.
But the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 1.34 points to to 1,180.18.
A dramatic slide in Argentine stocks, spurred by a debt crisis, worried some investors that ailing Latin American economies could hurt sales of U.S. multinational companies.
Investors also were skittish ahead of earnings from Motorola Inc., the world's No. 2 mobile phone maker, and Yahoo! Inc., one of the most visited Web sites, due after the bell. Investors are fielding about 300 earnings reports this week, and more than four times that many the following week.
Motorola edged up 17 cents to $15.67 after earlier weakness. Yahoo lost 80 cents to $17.03 before their profit reports, which were released after the bell.
``Investors are worried about the earnings being reported for the second quarter and wondering how many more blowups there are going to be. said Bob Robbins, chief investment strategist for Robinson-Humphrey Co. ``We've gotten a daily diet of them.''
Telecommunications software maker Comverse plunged $13.07, or more than 33 percent, to $25.95, and ranked as the most actively traded issue on the Nasdaq. The company said it expects earnings for the rest of the year to fall far below analysts' expectations as its customers delay purchases in light of the poor economic climate.
Rival wireless software maker Openwave Systems Inc. fell $3.90 to $20.24 and Ulticom Inc., a communications software company that is majority owned by Comverse, dropped $5.48 to $18.
Bank stocks fell on concerns about bond trading and debt exposure to Argentina and other emerging markets. Citigroup Inc. slipped $1.52 to $47.60 and pressured the Dow.
Compaq Computer Corp., the No. 2 personal computer maker, gained 69 cents to $14.45 even after lowering its quarterly forecast on the back of an industry slowdown and increased job cuts. Analysts said they hope aggressive cost-cutting programs will enable Compaq to improve its bottom line.
Emerson Electric Co. dropped $8.48 to $52.93, after the electrical products maker said it expects to report an 11 percent decline in profit for the third quarter because of slumping sales.
Emerson helped to push Tyco International, a rival in the electronics business, down $2.76 to $50.50. Tyco, a diversified manufacturing and service company which has about a third of its business in the electronic sector, ranked as the most actively traded stock on the New York Stock Exchange,
DoubleClick Inc. fell $1.93 to $10.09 after the No. 1 online ad company said its loss widened within lowered expectations, but revenues would trail forecasts. It gave few signs of optimism as it still contends with a decline in ad spending.
Polaroid Corp. lost 84 cents to $1.86. The camera and film maker said it was optimistic about talks with its banks over looming loan deadlines, but its stock tumbled more than 34 percent amid concerns the company may be on the brink of bankruptcy.
The number of stocks falling outpaced those gaining. About 1,746 stocks dropped and 1,344 stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange, while 2,173 stocks declined and 1,551 advanced on the Nasdaq.
Volume was moderate as some waited to make big bets on stocks until they see quarterly results. Almost 1.4 billion shares changed hands on the Big Board, according to preliminary figures. About 1.75 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, fell 1.74 to 476.40.
Stock fell overseas Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei stock average finished the day down 2.4 percent. In Europe, Germany's DAX index slipped 0.3 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 fell 1.4 percent, and France's CAC-40 lost 1.2 percent.
-- Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.