The stock market recorded its third straight loss Monday as oil prices continued to rebound from their early 1986 slide.
But the market finished well above its midday lows. Trading set the slowest pace in more than two months.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down about 20 points at mid-session, closed with a 3.71-point loss at 1,735.51.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 129.76 million shares, down from 147.27 million Friday and the lightest total since a 125.34-million-share day on Jan. 30.
The price of crude oil futures for May delivery, which started to rally after it dipped below $10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange early last week, jumped $1.59 to $14.33 in Monday's activity.
Analysts said the upswing was bolstered by news of a strike that closed down Norway's offshore oil production.
Program Trades Cited
Falling oil prices were cited as a primary force behind the strong advance in stock and bond prices during the first quarter of the year. Now that oil has bounced back, stocks and bonds have turned weak.
Brokers also said that stock traders were cautious after the waves of so-called program selling that hit the market last week. There were signs that professionals engaged in multiple transactions involving stock index futures were doing more selling of stocks as a new week began.
However, that pressure eased by Monday afternoon, and the market recouped a good part of its early losses.
Losers among the blue chips included Sears, down 5/8 at 45 7/8; Merck, down 1 at 163 1/2; General Electric, down 3/4 at 73, and Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing, down 1 3/4 at 98.
Minnesota Mining said its first-quarter earnings would closely resemble the results posted in the like period last year.
Securities industry issues were broadly lower, with the bull market in stocks and bonds having paused. First Boston dropped 3/8 to 54 1/2, Morgan Stanley 1 3/8 to 67 7/8, Bear, Stearns 3/4 to 31, Merrill Lynch 1/8 to 37 7/8 and E. F. Hutton 7/8 to 38 5/8.
Energy issues managed only a mixed showing despite the rise in oil. Mobil rose 3/8 to 30 and Atlantic Richfield was up 7/8 at 54, while Amoco was unchanged at 59 3/8 and Exxon slipped 3/8 to 54 7/8.
In the daily tally on the Big Board, about three issues declined in price for every two that gained ground.