Wal-Mart Stores led retail stocks lower today as holiday sales lagged, and Citigroup shares dropped after the company said costs to cover loan losses and legal settlements will cut its quarterly earnings by $1.5 billion.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell for a fourth day in five while gains in computer-related shares such as Microsoft helped lift the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. The New York Stock Exchange had its slowest day of trading since September before Wednesday's half-day Christmas Eve session.
The Dow fell 18.03 points, or 0.2 percent, to 8493.29. Wal-Mart and Citigroup contributed almost two-thirds of the decline.
The S&P rose 1.63, or 0.2 percent, to 897.38. The Nasdaq composite index rose 18.64, or 1.4 percent, to 1381.69.
Concern over a possible war deterred some investors. "If there is greater concern or a higher probability of war, that'll hurt the market," said Vladimir de Vassal, director of quantitative research at Glenmede Trust, which oversees about $18 billion.
Wal-Mart shed $1.20, to $49.59. The discount retailer said sales at stores open at least a year were near the low end of its forecast of a 3- to 5-percent increase this month. Target fell $1.35, to $28.54, while Federated Department Stores dropped $1.08, to $27.84. The parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's said sales are declining more than its November-December forecast of a drop of as much as 2.5 percent.
Tweeter Home Entertainment tumbled $2.64, or 33 percent, to $5.35. The electronics retailer said it will have earnings of 20 to 25 cents a share this quarter. Analysts expected it to earn 58 cents.
Of the 30 retail stocks in the S&P 500, 27 fell. "Retailers are having a tough time," said Tom Schrader, head of listed trading at Legg Mason Wood Walker in Baltimore. "Everyone is already putting stuff on sale -- just wait until next week and January. It can't be good for the profit picture for retailers going forward."
Citigroup fell 46 cents, to $37.68. The financial services company said it will take a fourth-quarter charge of about 29 cents a share to cover loan losses and costs to settle claims that securities firms misled customers with biased stock research.
McDonald's slid 20 cents, to $15.55, the lowest since Jan. 26, 1995. Moody's Investors Service said it may cut the fast-food company's credit ratings on about $9 billion in debt because of a failed price war with rivals and slowing U.S. and European sales.
Microsoft rose 96 cents, to $54. Oracle, which last week said new database sales rose for the first time in six quarters, gained 32 cents, to $11.06.
"We may get a cyclical rebound in some of the tech stocks," said Scott Vergin, who manages $2.5 billion in equities at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. "Oracle last week sounded fairly confident that we have seen the bottom."
Yahoo rose 64.5 cents, to $17.725, after the Internet search service agreed to purchase Inktomi, a maker of Web-search software, for about $235 million in cash. Inktomi jumped 43 cents, or 37 percent, to $1.60.
The acquisition is "a sign people are starting to see value in some of these names," said Robert Arancio, head of Nasdaq trading at Lehman Brothers.
CoorsTek jumped $2.28, to $25.48. Keystone Holdings agreed to buy the maker of components used to make computer chips for $26 a share.
St. Jude Medical rose $3.59, to $39.87. J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Michael N. Weinstein raised his recommendation on the medical device maker to "overweight" from "neutral."
* The New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 0.05, to 479.27; the American Stock Exchange index rose 2.28, to 829.10; and the Russell index of 2,000 small stocks rose 2.85, to 389.73.
* Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones by 11 to 10 on the NYSE, where trading volume fell to 1.11 billion shares, from 1.87 billion on Friday. On the Nasdaq, advancers outnumbered decliners by almost 9 to 7 and volume totaled 1.16 billion shares, down from 1.74 billion.
* The price of the Treasury's benchmark 10-year note fell 63 cents per $1,000 invested, and its yield rose to 3.97 percent, from 3.96 percent late Friday.
* The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 120.44 yen, up from 120.37 yen late Friday, and a euro bought $1.0263, down from $1.0269.
* Gold for current delivery rose on the Commodity Exchange division of the New York Mercantile Exchange to $345.10 a troy ounce from $340.50 on Friday.