Dow Closes In on 2,000, Adds 7.79

From Times Wire Services

Wall Street stocks inched toward the 2,000 point level of the Dow Jones index on Monday while many investors made the observance of the birth of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. into a three-day weekend.

The holiday saw the closing of federal, state and local offices and many banks. But currency and bond markets, which were as quiet as Wall Street, were open.

The Dow Jones industrial index closed up 7.79 at 1,963.86. Volume was a mere 135.1 million shares, compared to 197.9 million Friday, and gaining issues outweighed declining issues by a 6-to-5 margin.

"You cannot place too much significance on a day when there is such light volume," said Don Kimsey of Dean Witter Reynolds.

"The next couple of days will be very important to see if there is sufficient support among investors to push the market through 2,000," he said.

Analysts said Monday's market activity was little more than treading water. But the overall mood was bullish, keeping the few market players from taking profits on gains made during Friday's 40-point rise.

The market had been laying in wait before the release of the November trade figure on Friday, concerned about the direction that the dollar and interest rates would take should the trade imbalance have shown an unhealthy increase.

However, on Monday, "Trading was dull and boring," one trader said.

Among stocks in the news, Sterling Drug jumped 3 to 77 3/8 after the company rejected Swiss-based F. Hoffmann-La Roche's $4.2-billion takeover offer and said it was in discussions with another company about a possible takeover.

However IBM, which is expected to report quarterly earnings today, lost 1 at 117 3/4.

IU International rose 3/4 to 19. Neoax raised its bid for the company to $19 a share from $17.50, but IU said its directors rejected the offer as inadequate.

Among the blue chip and technology stocks, Procter & Gamble rose 1 5/8 to 86 1/8, Digital Equipment gained 2 1/2 to 121 1/2 and Merck added 2 3/8 to 153.

On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, news of improved U.S. trade figures for November combined with the dollar's climb to fuel a rally in stock prices. The 225-share Nikkei stock average rose 306.55 points to close at 22,910.20. Volume was a solid 600 million shares.

In Britain, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100-share index rose 3.3 points to close at 1,790. The index had been up about 19 shortly before the midday.

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