US stocks trimmed opening losses Tuesday after Hewlett-Packard reported a huge charge for an acquisition, offsetting fresh data signaling recovery in the housing market.
After a triple-digit gain Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 26.39 points (0.21 percent) at 12,769.57 in the first hour of trade (1530 GMT).
The S&P 500-stock index dipped 0.92 point (0.07 percent) to 1,385.97, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite edged down 2.31 (0.08 percent) to 2,913.75.
Charles Schwab & Co. analysts said stocks were lower after Dow member HP announced an $8.8 billion charge related to alleged accounting improprieties at Autonomy Corp, which HP acquired in August 2011 for over $10 billion.
The Commerce Department reported housing starts rose 3.6 percent in October, hitting a four-year high for the second straight month, confounding analysts who expected a decline.
Investors hammered HP, driving its shares down 12 percent to $11.70. The computer giant posted a $6.9 billion fiscal fourth-quarter loss and disappointing sales, and warned on the current quarter.
Moody's credit downgrade of France late Monday, taking away its coveted triple-A rating, also undermined sentiment, analysts said.
The downgrade "is a reminder that the eurozone debt crisis has cut to the core of the eurozone," said Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.com.
Wall Street awaited a speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the economy, scheduled at 12:15 pm (1715 GMT).
On the Dow, heavyweight Chevron fell 0.4 percent and Microsoft lost 0.5 percent.
Electronics retailer Best Buy plunged 14.2 percent after its quarterly earnings missed estimates.
Bond prices fell. The 10-year US Treasury yield rose to 1.63 percent from 1.57 percent late Friday, while the 30-year increased to 2.77 percent from 2.72 percent.
Bond prices and yields move inversely.