AP Business WriterNEW YORK (AP) -- Buyers returned to Wall Street Tuesday, lured by cheaper stock prices after six straight losing sessions but still anxious about impending earnings reports.
With earnings reports imminent -- including Intel's, scheduled after the close of trading -- investors were wary of taking many chances. Stocks gave up solid, early gains and fluctuated sharply during the afternoon.
"Everyone is a little cautious here. They don't need any surprises," said Larry Rice, chief investment officer at Josephthal & Co.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 32.87, or 0.3 percent, 9,924.29, according to preliminary calculations and after swinging between a 94-point gain and 26-point loss.
The Dow also ended a six-session losing stretch during which it dropped 368.32, or 3.6 percent. The blue chips hadn't seen such a string since they fell for three sessions before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and then another five afterward.
The broader market also finished higher after a day of wide fluctuations. The Nasdaq composite index rose 10.04, or 0.5 percent, to 2,000.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 7.77, or 0.7 percent, to 1,146.18.
Analysts have predicted choppy trading for the remainder of the month, saying individual earnings reports could have greater power to move the market in either direction.
"As the market tries to digest each report, there is going to be some volatility," said Brian Belski, fundamental market strategist for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
The market is also vulnerable to profit taking as investors evaluate how far stock prices have risen since the lows following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. As of Monday, the Dow was 20 percent above its Sept. 21 low of 8,235.81. The Nasdaq was nearly 40 percent above its low; the S&P 500, up almost 18 percent.
"Even though the market has come down recently, it's still on the overvalued side. ... That's what the investor has to digest," Rice said.
The technology sector was mixed ahead of Intel's results. Intel fell 14 cents to $34.70, while competitor Advanced Micro Devices declined 52 cents to $19.09.
But Microsoft rose $1.08 to $69.55, and IBM gained 85 cents to $118.90.
In blue chip trading, financial issues were strong after Wells Fargo posted a 5 percent increase in fourth-quarter profits due to a mortgage refinancing boom that offset sluggish loan demand among its business customers. Well Fargo soared $2.30 to $45.32, while Citigroup climbed 84 cents to $49.72, and J.P. Morgan Chase advanced 56 cents to $37.87.
Retailers were mixed following a report from the Commerce Department that retail sales experienced a smaller-than-expected decline of 0.1 percent in December. Wal-Mart, which had healthier holiday sales than most retailers, rose $1.11 to $56.87.
Gap fell 98 cents to $14.57, and Kmart sank 39 cents to $2.45. Moody's Investors Service reduced its credit ratings for Gap on Monday and for Kmart on Monday.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners about 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was moderate.
The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, rose 1.97, or 0.7 percent, to 484.98.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished Tuesday down 2.2 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 advanced 1.5 percent, Britain's FT-SE 100 gained 1.0 percent, and Germany's DAX index declined 0.1 percent.
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