Takeover Issues Shine but Stocks Drift Lower

From Times Wire Services

Stock prices drifted downward in dull trading on Friday.

The only stocks that attracted any real interest were targets of takeover speculation: ITT, CBS and Sperry.

The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials edged down 0.77 to 1,267.45.

Losers took a four-to-three lead over gainers among New York Stock Exchange-listed issues.

"There wasn't much life today," said Larry Wachtel of Prudential-Bache Securities. "There is no leadership. There is no group that is leading."

He added: "It's one big special-situation market. Usually you get that when nobody has any ideas."

Economic News

Good and bad economic news canceled each other out.

On the upside, the Labor Department said consumer prices rose a modest 0.3% in February, or at an annual rate of 4.2%.

And the Federal Reserve Board said after the stock market closed Thursday that the nation's basic money supply, called M1, contracted by $2.1 billion in the week ended March 13 to a seasonally adjusted $570.6 billion.

That surprised money-market analysts, who had expected an increase in the measure, and added to the belief that the Fed won't tighten its grip on credit.

Such tightening would send interest rates higher.

The news prompted a rally in the bond market in late trading. On Friday, profit taking pressured bond prices.

On the downside, the Commerce Department reported Friday that orders received by factories for durable goods--items such as appliances and automobiles that are designed to last at least three years--dipped 0.2% last month after shooting up 3.2% in January.

Dollar Climbs

Excluding the volatile military-goods component of the figures, however, orders would have climbed 4.7% in February.

In addition, the Commerce Department said Thursday that it estimates that the economy grew at an unexpectedly sluggish rate of 2.1% during the first three months of the year.

That news sent the dollar into a slump. But the U.S. currency finished mostly higher Friday.

A volume leader was ITT, up 1 5/8 at 35 3/8. Rumors had it that Minneapolis financier Irwin L. Jacobs, who holds a stake in the company, is seeking its partial liquidation.

CBS was up 3 1/8 at 108 3/4. Investor Ivan F. Boesky reportedly has bought a $240-million block of stock in CBS.

Sperry fell 1 1/8 to 52. The company issued a statement saying it isn't negotiating or discussing any prospective takeover or merger.

McGraw-Edison jumped 11 to 55 1/2. The company said it had agreed in principle to be acquired by Forstmann Little & Co. Jim Novy, a McGraw-Edison spokesman, said the price was $59 per share in cash. The total value of the transaction, based on McGraw-Edison's shares and debt to be assumed or refinanced, is about $1.3 billion, the company said.

IBM fell 1 to 127 3/4. After the market closed, the company said its first-quarter results will be below those of a year earlier.

Big Board volume totaled 99.25 million shares, against 95.93 million in the previous session.

In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments fell 7/32 point, intermediate maturities fell by between 9/32 point and 23/32 point and long-term issues were off 25/32 point.

In corporate trading, industrials and utilities were off point in light trading. Among tax-exempt municipals, both general obligations and revenue bonds were unchanged.

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