Stocks fell in another volatile session on Wall Street as investors looked ahead to next week's Federal Reserve meeting and anticipated an interest-rate increase with several more to follow this year.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 4.97 points to close at 11,028.02. The modest finish, after a 3.10-point gain on Wednesday, belied a wild session in which the Dow rose as much as 130 points and tumbled as much as 116.
Broader indicators also gave up early gains and closed lower. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 5.53, to 1398.56, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 30.35, to 4039.56. Trading was heavy.
Analysts could find no single catalyst for the sell-off that put the brakes on the market's latest attempt to rebuild from steep losses in recent sessions. The Dow has fallen 6 percent from its Jan. 14 closing high of 11,722.98, and the Nasdaq has sliced nearly 5 percent from its closing high of 4235.40, set just last Friday.
But market watchers said the continued volatility stems in part from worries about the Federal Reserve's upcoming meeting on interest rates. Next week, the Fed is expected to raise interest rates in a bid to keep inflation at bay as the nation's economy continues to grow at a rapid pace. Higher interest rates can threaten corporate profits.
Three separate quarter-point rate increases in 1999 have done little to slow the economy's torrid growth. Today, the latest sign of unfettered expansion came from the Commerce Department's report that showed orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods surged in December.
Investors punished some companies for disappointing Wall Street this week. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin fell 5/8, to 19-7/16, after saying today that it will cut at least 2,800 jobs in an effort to streamline its troubled aeronautical and space businesses.
Coca-Cola shares tumbled for a second session, falling 3-9/16, to 59 1/2. The company Wednesday announced plans to eliminate 6,000 jobs, about one-fifth of its work force.
Qualcomm, the Nasdaq's best-performing stock in 1999, fell 4 5/8, to 120. The company said Wednesday that it may see lower demand for its products in the current quarter.
Dell fell 2-13/16, to 37-9/16. Late Wednesday, the company said it will miss analysts' profit and sales estimates this quarter because of parts shortages and slower customer demand. Dell also cited year 2000 computer concerns for the shortfall.
Other technology companies posted solid gains. Conexant, which will be added to the S&P 500 after the close of trading Friday, rose 13 1/4, to 87-9/16. Companies often get at least a short-term boost when they are added to an index, as mutual fund managers who try to mirror an index's performance buy shares of the newly added company.