Stocks End Down On Volatile Day

A warning from Disney sent stocks lower on Wednesday, but positive comments from Microsoft nearly rescued the market by the close.

A report that UN inspectors had found Iraqi armaments containing mustard agent undercut the late rally.

The Nasdaq fell 18 to 1430, the S&P 500 slipped 3 to 917, and the Dow gave back 5 to 8737. Volume rose to 1.53 billion shares on the NYSE, and 1.88 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led 16 to 15 on the NYSE, and 19 to 13 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 63% on the NYSE, and 85% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 24-18 on the NYSE, and 51-27 on the Nasdaq.

After the close, IBM edged higher after saying the stock market rally will make it possible to cover its pension shortfall this year. Netflix and Altera reaffirmed guidance, and Synopsis missed and warned.

During the day, Microsoft nearly made it back to breakeven after projecting modest PC shipment growth in 2003. Microsoft was also hit by a judge’s suggestion that Sun’s Java language be included in XP.

Morgan Stanley downgraded chip stocks, and the Wall Street Journal said the sector is expensive given its prospects. The semiconductor index fell 5.7%.

HP fell 4.5% despite saying it would achieve $3 billion in merger savings next year, a year ahead of schedule. IBM , meanwhile, took a shot at HP with a Linux pSeries server.

Expedia and fell on valuation downgrades and Expedia’s decision to begin charging booking fees.

RealNetworks surged 9% after announcing an online movie service.

Intel fell 2.8% ahead of its mid-quarter update tomorrow night.

PeopleSoft fell 7.7% on comments that the company expects flat customer spending next year.

Manugistics plunged 21% on a warning.

Hitachi continued to make inroads into the storage space, announcing a partnership with Network Appliance . rose despite another lawsuit by Pitney Bowes.

Integrated Device , and ADC Telecom and JD Edwards all fell on their earnings reports.

LookSmart fell 4% after announcing the end of a joint venture with British Telecom.

In the wireless space, Research In Motion announced a Blackberry for Nextel customers, and Qualcomm and China Unicom announced a joint venture.

Broadcom , off 4.4%, will unveil a new switching technology this week.

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