updated 2/5/2004 7:50:00 AM ET 2004-02-05T12:50:00

Stocks closed Tuesday slightly higher, finishing a seesaw session in which cautious investors shied away from major stock moves after the discovery of the toxic powder ricin forced the closure of all Senate buildings and rekindled terrorism fears.

With few buyers and sellers in the market, trading was volatile and the major indexes alternated between gains and losses, ending the day fractionally higher. The absence of broad-based selling led most traders to believe there had been only a limited reaction to the ricin concerns.

“I don’t think you can really attribute the choppiness to that,” said Brian Williamson, an equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management. “I think there aren’t a lot of stories out there in general about the economy and stocks themselves, so that slows things down a little bit.”

The Dow Jones industrial average spent the day moving in and out of negative ground, eventually closing the trading session 6.00 points higher, or up 0.1 percent, at 10,505.18.

The broader gauges were also higher at the close of trading. The Nasdaq composite index gained 3.06 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 2,066.21, after four days of declines. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index edged up 0.77 point, or 0.1 percent, to 1,136.03.

The discovery of a suspicious, powdery white substance in a Capitol Hill office late Monday raised new concerns about terrorism on domestic soil and invoked memories of the anthrax attacks of 2001. The powder later tested positive as ricin, and all Senate office buildings were closed Tuesday.

The dollar was weaker against most other currencies Tuesday as fears about terrorism reverberated, and bonds moved higher. Gold prices rose.

As the last major fourth-quarter earnings trickled in, investors were trying to determine whether the largely positive results meshed with economic data. Some analysts said the market was still feeling the impact of last week’s statement from the Federal Reserve, which many interpreted as a signal that interest rates could rise sooner rather than later.

“We’ve seen the market take on a different personality day by day,” said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “But I think the biggest issue on the minds of investors is when is the Fed going to raise rates and when is the market going to rotate more in terms of sectors.”

There have been hints that investors are slowly shifting their focus away from more speculative small-cap and tech stocks and into less risky, high-value blue chips, but there has not been a strong movement in that direction.

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Gainers on the tech-heavy Nasdaq index included Cisco Systems, which closed 21 cents higher at $26.41 after Sanford Bernstein raised it to a “market perform” ahead of its earnings announcement after the market close. The networking company’s performance has been widely watched as an indicator of corporate technology spending.

Cisco’s earnings, reported after the market closed, beat Wall Street’s expectations by 1 cent a share on strong sales, but the company’s shares declined 1.33 percent in after-hours trading.

Dow component Intel Corp. gained $1.08 to $31.40, although analysts broadly expect a pullback in the semiconductor sector later this year; Goldman Sachs downgraded its rating of the group to “neutral” from “attractive.”

Taser International Inc. lost $7.81, or 5.8 percent, to $127.21. The stun-gun maker made steep gains earlier in the session after posting fourth-quarter results that beat expectations. Taser officials also raised their forecast for the year, saying they expect sales to double.

Industrial conglomerate Tyco International Ltd. rose 70 cents to $27.80 after reporting results that beat forecasts, due partly to a boost in revenues from favorable currency exchange rates.

Sprint Corp. FON Group shed 5 cents to $17.95, while its separately traded cell phone unit Sprint PCS Group lost 11 cents to $8.13. Both businesses beat analyst expectations, but the mobile phone unit reported a loss.

Decliners slightly outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was 1.48 billion shares traded, compared with 1.58 billion shares Monday.

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, fell 1.39 points, or 0.2 percent, to 579.15.

Overseas, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225-share average finished Tuesday 1.25 percent lower. In Europe, France’s CAC-40 index lost 0.7 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.2 percent and Germany’s DAX index closed the German trading day down 0.4 percent.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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