NEW YORK – Technology stocks gained but the broad market fell Tuesday as aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. reported its first quarterly loss in almost eight years and investors gravitated toward faster-growing technology shares.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.5 points, or 0.46 percent, to 10,150.55, while the Nasdaq composite rose 18.64 points, or 0.92 percent, to 2,055.74. The index has risen four of the past five sessions.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 4.18 points, or 0.36 percent, to 1,160.71. But despite the day's drop, the S&P 500 ended the first five trading days 1.1 percent in the black, a good omen for the new year.
Tuesday's session wrapped up the first five trading days of the new year. When this period finishes in the black, history shows the year, too, will end higher. The Dow average is up 1.3 percent so far in 2002, while the S&P 500 is up 1 percent.
Comments from Altera Corp. and BMC Software Inc. boosted optimism the battered tech industry is near a rebound.
"People are bidding up stocks in anticipation of a strong second half,"oversees $3.5 billion. "Everyone believes in tech. The only thing they're quibbling about is the price. But what looks expensive now may look very reasonable a few quarters out."
Even so, investors are treading carefully before the fourth-quarter earnings season, which heats up next week. Profits are expected to fall 22 percent -- the worst quarter in a decade -- but investors are more interested in corporate comments of an expected turnaround in profits.
"We know fourth quarter is a dud," said Mace Blicksilver, a money manager at Marblehead Asset Management. "It all comes down to guidance and visibility."
Alcoa Inc., the world's No. 1 producer of aluminum, weighed on the Dow after reporting a quarterly net loss amid depressed demand and low metal prices. Shares slipped fell 82 cents, or 2.15 percent, to $37.34.
Financial stocks also pressured the blue-chip average as investors fretted economic and political turmoil in Argentina will hurt profits of international banks that had exposure to the struggling country. Citigroup fell $1.93 to $49.50.
Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc.fell $1.80 to $51.35 after a Morgan Stanley analyst said new federal truck emissions standards might hurt earnings.
Specialty chipmaker Altera rose $1.02 to $24.92. The company revenues would fall about 7 percent from the third quarter, but added, "it appears we have seen the bottom of this cycle." That's good news for the battered industry, investors said.
Business software maker BMC jumped 87 cents to $21. The company said quarterly earnings would be at the upper end of analysts' estimates.
"People are looking past the first six months of 2002 and into the first part of 2003," said Robert Arancio, head of Nasdaq trading at Lehman Brothers. "I think you'll get some outstanding performance from tech."
Disappointing outlooks from computer maker Gateway Inc. and media giant AOL Time Warner Inc. kept a lid on the market.
Personal computer maker Gateway tumbled $2.56 to $7.69. The company said again it would to return to profitability in the fourth quarter before taxes and charges, but forecast revenue below expectations. Analysts said the firm is losing market share to competitors.
AOL Time Warner lost 68 cents to $32. The world's largest media and Internet company said it would take an accounting charge of up to $60 billion, likely the largest corporate charge on record, and reined in forecasts of earnings growth, citing the weak economy.
AFLAC Inc. climbed $2.42 to $25.54 after the No. 1 U.S. supplemental health insurer said it would hit analysts' quarterly earnings estimates despite lower sales in its main market in Japan.
Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson fell 18 cents to $5.46. Finnish cell phone giant Nokia dropped $1.43 to $23.87. Wall Street house Merrill Lynch downgraded the wireless sector, saying it expects the mobile infrastructure market to be down 5 percent in 2002.
A more positive tone to profit forecasts has helped ignite a three-week rally in the broad Standard & Poor's 500 index. Investors, however, snapped a three-day winning streak on Monday amid worries that share prices are outpacing earnings prospects.
"We had a really strong last couple of weeks, so it doesn't surprise me to see a little pullback in the market, a little profit-taking," said John Forelli, senior vice president at Independence Investment LLC, which oversees about $20 billion. "The near-term corporate earnings announcements that are coming up are not going to be great news, so it's a little early to see a sustainable rally."
Declining issues outnumbered advancers slightly more than 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 945.03 million shares, below the 1.01 billion shares traded at the same point Monday.
The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 1.62, or 0.3 percent, to 494.80.
Overseas, stocks traded lower Tuesday with Japan's Nikkei stock average finishing the day down 2.3 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 closed down 1.0 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 fell 0.8 percent and Germany's DAX index slipped 0.1 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.