NEW YORK — Stocks fell once again Tuesday after a brief midday flirtation in positive territory.

After triple-digit declines in three consecutive sessions, the Dow Jones Industrial Average avoided a fourth straight 100-plus decline when it slipped 82.24 points to 7,702.34. However, with the drop, it fell 1.1 percent.

Retail stocks fared better as the S&P Retail Index notched up 0.27 points, or 0.1 percent, to 258.07. The Nasdaq Composite Index performed dismally, dropping 53.60, or 4.2 percent, to 1,229.05. The S&P 500 took a 22.14 point dip, or 2.7 percent, to finish the day at 797.71.

Department stores logged some of the more impressive gains of the day. Federated Department Stores moved up $1.01, or 3.1 percent, to $33.25, archrival May Department Stores Co. gained a more modest 65 cents, or 2.5 percent, to close at $26.74 and Nordstrom managed a 29 cent, or 1.7 percent, increase, to end the day at $17.60. Kohl’s picked up 97 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $57.70. While Dillard’s ended the day flat at $21.70, declines were registered by Neiman Marcus (down 37 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $24.88), Saks (down 6 cents, of 0.6 percent, to $10.21), J.C. Penney (down 40 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $15.27) and Sears (down 15 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $42.60).

Among mass merchants, Wal-Mart Stores was up 50 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $45.10, and Factory-2U-Stores was up 79 cents, or 7.1 percent, to $11.99. With its flagship discount division posting comparable-store sales that were slightly below plan last week due to weakness in men’s wear, jewelry, accessories and garden items, Target Corp. shares dropped 59 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $30.46.

Off-pricers have held up fairly well under the brutal market conditions of the past few months, but neither market leader TJX Cos. nor number-two Ross Stores shared in the minor upward movement Tuesday. TJX traded down 53 cents, or 3.2 percent, to close at $16.02, and Ross finished the day down 76 cents, or 2.1 percent, at $36.10.

Specialty-store gainers included American Eagle Outfitters (up 25 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $16.69), Aeropostale (up 40 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $18.95), Cache (up 12 cents, 0.8 percent, to $14.64) and J. Jill Group (up 75 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $21.50). However, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and Ann Taylor were off 0.3 percent, 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

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