The stock market scraped together a small gain Thursday, continuing its indecisive showing of the past couple of sessions.
But analysts found some encouragement in the fact that the market was able to hold firm despite weakness in International Business Machines, one of the most prominent blue chips on Wall Street.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down 0.45 Tuesday and up 1.46 Wednesday, rose 2.80 to 1,305.78.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange stepped up to 108.76 million shares from 96.54 million the day before.
Analysts said investors were still busy considering the complicated potential effects of President Reagan's tax-reform proposal and its chances for passage in Congress.
Before the market opened, the Commerce Department reported that the index of leading economic indicators dropped 0.2% in April. At the same time, however, the department revised the index reading for March, first reported as a 0.2% decline, to a gain of 0.1%.
Analysts said the numbers contained no great surprises and did not give any emphatic signal either of serious weakness in business activity or of an impending acceleration of growth.
The Investment Company Institute's report that sales of mutual fund shares reached a record $9.5 billion in April came as news of some interest to investors. However, a big chunk of that activity was in funds specializing in government securities and municipal bonds.
IBM Earnings Forecast
IBM fell 1 3/4 to 128. After the close of trading, IBM said a slight decline in second-quarter profit was probable but repeated earlier forecasts of a strong second half.
Nabisco Brands jumped 6 7/8 to 78, and R. J. Reynolds Industries dropped 2 to 73. Late Wednesday, Nabisco said it had held exploratory talks with Reynolds on matters that it did not disclose.
Cullinet Software lost 2 1/8 to 24. The company said it expected slower growth in revenue for the quarter ending July 31 than the 56% rate posted in the comparable period last year.
Mary Kay Cosmetics rose 1 to 12 5/8 after a delayed opening. An investor group led by the company's top management proposed to acquire it through a leveraged buy-out--a transaction in which assets of the company being acquired are typically used as a source of financing for the purchase.
Walt Disney Productions climbed 5 to 89 5/8 on word that the company was considering steps to restructure some of its financial arrangements.
Gainers slightly outnumbered losers in the daily tally on the Big Board, and the exchange's composite index edged up 0.07 to 108.73.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 129.14 million shares.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 1,934.017, up 0.227 or 0.01% from the preceding trading day.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 0.05 to 208.00, and S&P;'s 500-stock composite index was up 0.07 at 187.75.
The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market dropped 0.70 to 289.45. At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index closed at 230.30, down 0.01.
Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 2,229, compared to 1,906 on Wednesday.
Bonds Mostly Lower
Bond prices finished mostly lower Thursday despite a decline in the government's main gauge of future economic activity.
Signs of weakness in the economy usually help bond prices because it encourages speculation that the Federal Reserve will take steps to lower interest rates. Slower growth is also seen as an indication that private credit demands will abate, reducing pressure on interest rates.
But the report on the leading indicators was generally in line with the expectation of market analysts.
William Sullivan, director of money-market research at Dean Witter Reynolds, said the market also may have been reacting to upward revisions in the government's earlier reports on the leading indicators for February and March.
"There were some reasonably strong upward revisions so that the 0.2% decline occurred off a somewhat higher base," he said.
Late in the day, bond prices pulled back slightly after the Federal Reserve reported a larger-than-expected $4.5-billion increase in the nation's basic money supply. Analysts said the rise may make it more difficult for the Fed to ease credit conditions further.
In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments finished down 2/32 point, intermediate maturities fell 5/32 point and long-term issues were off as much as 1/2 point, according to the investment firm of Salomon Bros.
The movement of a point is equivalent to a change of $10 in the price of a bond with a $1,000 face value.
In corporate trading, industrials and utilities were unchanged in light trading. Among tax-exempt municipal bonds, general obligations were unchanged while revenue bonds fell 1/8 point, Salomon Bros. said.
Yields on three-month Treasury bills fell 5 basis points to 7.18%. A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point. Six-month bills fell 5 basis points to 7.32%, and one-year bills were off 3 basis points at 7.54%.
Yields on 30-year Treasury bonds were 10.71%, unchanged from late Wednesday.
The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, traded at 7.675%, down from 7.813% late Wednesday.