Stocks turn mixed

Investors give up early advance after consumer confidence index plunges to all-time low. Earnings continue to disappoint, home prices fall at record pace.

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NEW YORK( -- Stocks turned mixed after a report showing consumer confidence fell to a record low overshadowed any relief about the Senate's confirmation of Timothy Geithner as the new Treasury secretary.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 17 points, or 0.2% in the early going. The Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index was barely changed. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) added 2 points, or 0.1%.

Stocks had gained in the first 30 minutes of trading, but abandoned those gains after the 10 a.m. ET release of the consumer confidence index from the Conference Board.

The index fell to 37.7 in January from a revised 38.6 in December, worse than what economists were expecting. The reading was the lowest since the Conference Board began tracking the index in 1967.

A separate report from the government showed that unemployment rose in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in December.

News on the economic front has been dismal, but stocks still managed to gain on Monday. Stocks rose even as about 71,400 job cuts were announced.

Robert Brusca, chief economist at Fact and Opinion Economics, said the approval of Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary on Monday helped to alleviate investor anxiety, despite the "really bad GDP report" that looms on Friday.

"These are the kind of tentative signs that you see," said Brusca. "The market has to stop falling and has to stabilize before it rises. I think this is a good place for people to start making bets."

The gross domestic product is expected to have declined by an annual rate of 5.4% in the fourth quarter, according to a consensus of economist expectations from

Earnings: Dow component DuPont (DD, Fortune 500) reported a loss of $629 million, or 70 cents a share, for the fourth quarter. Without charges related to restructuring, the chemical maker reported a loss of 28 cents per share. Shares fell 1%.

Corning (GLW, Fortune 500), a maker of fiber-optic and TV screen glass, said its fourth-quarter sales plunged 30% to $1.1 billion, and earnings plummeted 70% to 13 cents per share, excluding special items. The company said it will cut 13% of its work force, or 3,500 jobs. Shares fell 2.5%.

Telecom operator Verizon Communications (VZ, Fortune 500) said fourth-quarter revenue rose more than 3% to $24.6 billion, and diluted earnings rose to 43 cents per share, up from 37 cents a year earlier. Shares fell 5%.

Texas Instruments (TXN, Fortune 500) posted a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit after U.S. markets closed Monday. Shares of the chip maker rose 5% Tuesday.

Also late Monday, Dow component American Express (AXP, Fortune 500) reported lower quarterly earnings that missed expectations. Still, shares gained 9% Tuesday.

The economy: The Conference Board is due to release its January consumer confidence index shortly.

Also, the S&P/CaseShiller home index showed that home prices in its index of 20 cities dropped a record 18.2% in the 12 months ending in November, to the lowest level since 2004.

The Federal Reserve begins its two-day policy setting meeting, with an announcement expected Wednesday afternoon.

Retail: The outlook for retail sales doesn't appear to be improving. Retail industry sales are expected to decline 0.5% this year, the National Retail Federation said in its 2009 economic forecast released Tuesday.

World markets: Stocks in Japan soared, with the Nikkei climbing nearly 5%. But the positive sentiment didn't carry over to Europe, where major indexes were lower in the afternoon.

Oil and money: Oil prices fell $1.52 a barrel to $44.22 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The dollar rose versus the yen, but fell versus the euro and the British pound. To top of page

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