Stocks finished at session lows Tuesday after moving in a narrow range for most of the session. Investors appear to be jittery ahead of Friday's November employment report.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 45.41 points, or 0.46%, to 9,853.64. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 3.51 points, or 0.33%, to 1,066.62. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 7.36 points, or 0.37%, to 1,982.46.
Steel, wireless services and airlines led the loss column. Advertising, asset management, and managed care issues rose.
Dow member AT&T Corp. (T) said it hired William Hannigan, chairman of travel company Sabre Holdings (TSG), as president, replacing Betsy Bernard, who will pursue other career options.
In other company news, PepsiCo (PEP) said it would cut about 750 jobs as it reorganizes its North American soft drink business and international operations and closes a Frito-Lay plant to cut costs.
The scandal-plagued mutual funds industry continues to deliver negative headlines. Shares of Amvescap (AVZ) finished lower amid press reports that U.S. securities regulators were expected as soon as Tuesday to file charges against Invesco, its U.S. mutual funds arm, for allowing clients to engage in short-term trading in its funds.
Twenty closed-end mutual funds affiliated with Citigroup (C) said they may be eligible for refunds from Citigroup Asset Management as part of a probe into its dealings with a transfer agent services provider.
On the tech front, cell phone chip supplier Texas Instruments (TXN) said that it had sold its remaining shares of Micron Technolog (MU) and will record a gain.
Biotech Pharmacyclics (PCYC) surged after it said U.S. regulators would conduct a quicker-than-normal review of its treatment for brain cancer.
In earnings news, McData (MCDT), a maker of data storage equipment, posted a quarterly net loss due to charges for acquisitions and other items. Revenues rose 17%.
Navistar International (NAV), a truck maker, swung to a quarterly profit, as orders for trucks improved. It said net income in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Oct. 31 was $77 million, or $1 a share, compared with a net loss of $460 million, or $7.58 a share, a year earlier.
In economic news Tuesday, strong November sales at General Motors (GM) offset lackluster numbers at Ford (F) and Chrysler , says MMS International, an economic research group. MMS had forecast overall sales of 13.4 million units, up from 12.5 million in October.
Coming Wednesday is an updat on productivity. The data are due before the market open. Economists expect a 9.2% rise in the third quarter. Non-manufacturing ISM data for November are also due at 10 a.m. ET.
Friday's November employment report is the market's focal point, Treasuries are on defensive footing, with a sell-the-rumor, buy-the-fact trade setting the tone for the week, says MMS. Most economists see strong payrolls data for the month.
Among companies with earnings up for scrutiny will be Chico's FAS (CHS) and Sports Authority (TSA), both of which reported after Tuesday's close.
Comverse Technology (CMVT), Neiman-Marcus (NMGA), Mandalay Resort Group (MBG) and Synopsys>/b> (SNPS) are on the earnings docket Wednesday.
Treasuries finished higher as equities weakened further. Earlier, a large drop in the Challenger layoff report added to ongoing defensive tone.
Supply remains a thorny issue for Treasuries, says MMS. Along with the $84 billion in bills this week, and the prospect of another $80 billion plus in bills and notes next week, there are a couple of large corporate deals keeping the pressure on bonds.
In other data Tuesday, U.S. chain store sales index fell 0.1% for the week ended November 29 versus the prior week where sales were up 0.4%. According to the report, "Black Friday" and Saturday sales were good but not great. On a year-over-year basis, sales slowed to a 5.2% pace from 5.6% previously. MMS continues to look for a robust holiday shopping season.
European stock markets finished lower. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index fell 31.10 points, or 0.71%, to 4,378.90, on profit taking. Investors there got positive economic resports showing expanded factory output and projected economic growth in 2004.
In Paris, the CAC 40 lost 18.40 points, or 0.53%, to 3,471.86, amid a drop in French consumer confidence.
Germany's DAX index slipped 11.94 points, or 0.31%, to 3,809.26, even though the government reported retail sales rose 0.4% in October.
Asian stock markets finished mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 6.88 points, or 0.07%, to 10,410.15. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index shed 44.76 points, or 0.36%, to finish at 12,412.23.