Stocks finished mixed on Tuesday, with the major equity indexes consolidating gains, as investors couldn't push aside a weak report on consumer confidence. The tech-heavy Nasdaq ended higher, while the blue-chip Dow closed lower.
Earlier in the session, the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index -- which declined in June -- tumbled further in July. The Index now stands at 97.1, down sharply from 106.3 last month. Steep declines in the stock market on the month, along with renewed concerns about the economy, soured consumers' outlook.
Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush signed corporate accountability legislation that increases penalties for accounting fraud and provides new grounds for prosecuting corporate corruption. Critics of the bill charge it doesn't address the issue of stock options for executives.
Among the stocks in the news, Dynegy (DYN ) posted a second-quarter loss, citing a charge for its natural gas marketing business, according to news reports. Plus, oil firm ChevronTexaco (CVX ) said earnings fell about 80%, hurt by weak refining and a write-down of its investment in Dynegy.
After the close oftrading Tuesday, IBM Corp. (IBM ), the world's biggest seller of computers and related services, agreed to buy PricewaterhouseCoopers's business-consulting unit for $3.5 billion in cash and stock, according to news reports. Big Blue also said PwC would no longer pursue its planned initial public offering. IBM was scheduled to hold a conference call regarding the acquisition at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 31.85 points, or 0.37%, to 8,680.03. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index added 8.94 points, or 0.67%, to 1,344.19. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 3.83 points, or 0.43%, to 902.78. Among the losers were conglomerates, utilities, and pharmaceuticals.
U.S. Treasuries ended mixed, with the long bond posting gains, while shorter-dated issues were slightly lower.
European markets also concluded on a mixed note. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index lost 21.80 points, or 0.52%, to 4,180.90. In France, the CAC 40 was off 15.98 points, or 0.47%, to 3,379.85. And in Germany, the DAX Index added 19.16 points, or 0.50%, to 3,878.94.
In Asia, the markets finished higher. The Nikkei surged 337.05 points, or 3.49%, to 1,003.72, amid gains in exporter shares. In Hong Kong, the market added 179.26 points, or 1.80%, to 10,155.25.