Technology stocks fell Wednesday, dragged down by a weak earnings report from the business software maker Oracle Corp.
Broad market indexes were flat. The Dow Jones industrial average eked out a gain of 4 points after having been down most of the day.
The Dow was down 104 points at midday, led by technology stocks. The rare earnings miss by Oracle raised worries that weak government and business spending might hurt other big technology companies. International Business Machines Corp., the largest computer-services company, was by far the biggest loser in the Dow, falling 3.1 percent to $181.47.
Investors also had more to worry about from Europe. New data showed extensive lending from the European Central Bank to European banks. The initial reaction to the $639 billion in lending by the ECB was positive, but then worry set in that Europe's banks needed so much help in the first place.
"Long-term, people were a little bit concerned that banks needed more money than we thought they did," said Joe Bell, a senior equity analyst with Schaeffer's Investment Research.
The Dow edged up 4.16 points, less than 0.1 percent, to close at 12,107.74. On Tuesday the Dow jumped 337 - its biggest gain this month - on good economic news from Europe and a surge in new home construction in the U.S.
The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 2.42 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,243.72. Outside of the 2 percent decline for technology companies, prices rose or were flat in the rest of the S&P 500's 10 sectors.
The Nasdaq composite fell 25.76 points, or 1 percent, to 2,577.97.
Oracle Corp. plunged almost 14 percent after the business software company said it was struggling to close deals. The results seemed to reinforce worries that businesses and the government may cut back on technology spending. Especially worrying was a weak 2 percent gain in new software licenses, a key sign of demand from other businesses. Oracle had predicted gains of as much as 16 percent.
Joining Oracle and IBM with declines, Hewlett-Packard Co., the largest computer maker, slid 1.8 percent. Cisco Systems Inc., the world's biggest maker of networking equipment, dropped 2.6 percent.
Emerson Electric Co. declined 5.4 percent after reporting November orders that were lower than analysts' estimates.
KB Home lost 6.7 percent. The Los Angeles-based homebuilder that targets first-time buyers reported a quarterly profit that beat analysts' estimates as sales and orders rose.
Research In Motion Ltd. surged 10 percent after reports Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Oyj mulled a bid while Amazon.com Inc. also considered buying the BlackBerry maker.
Exxon Mobil Corp. gained 1.4 percent after oil rose for a third day as U.S. inventories declined the most in a decade.
Consumer staples rose with help from a 1.7 percent increase by Coca-Cola Co. and a gain of 1.2 percent at Kraft.
Nike Inc. rose 2.9 percent after reporting strong demand and higher prices for its shoes and clothing.
Volume was much lower than usual at 3.5 billion shares, which can make prices more volatile.