The stock market struggled to a small gain Thursday as traders awaited today’s release of September unemployment figures.
The Dow Jones index of 30 industrials rose 1.24 to 2,107.75, while advancing issues outnumbered declines by about 5 to 4 in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks. Big Board trading came to 153.57 million shares, down from Wednesday’s 175.13 million shares.
Stocks have been drifting all week while traders await the Labor Department report this morning on the employment situation for September.
“Everyone’s talked themselves into waiting for those (unemployment) numbers,” said John Brooks, managing director at Marshall & Co. “At about 3 p.m., they tried to sell the market off, but they couldn’t.”
Brooks said the recent drop off in commodity prices, especially in crude oil, suggests “we have every reason to believe we’ll get a downtick in interest rates.”
Brokers say investors have been especially cautious because of expectations that the figures will show job growth at a rate faster than the Federal Reserve would like to see in its efforts to keep inflation from reviving.
A good many analysts doubt that the employment figures, however they turn out, will end the market’s recent period of lethargy.
They note that Wall Street will have to contend with memories of last October’s crash, whose approaching anniversary is getting a lot of publicity, and uncertainties about the election in November.
None of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow moved as much as a point. Among actively traded blue chips, General Motors dropped 3/8 to 74 1/8; Sears, Roebuck & Co. lost to 39 1/2, and Union Carbide was down at 25 7/8.
Pillsbury Most Active
TW Services climbed 1 3/4 to 26 5/8. The investment firm of Coniston Partners offered $28 a share for the TW stock it doesn’t already own.
Hospital Corp. of America rose 1 to 43 3/8. The company said a committee of directors served notice that it would reject a $47-a-share buyout proposal being considered by a management group. Some traders evidently took that as a possible prelude to another bid.
Pillsbury led the active list, down at 57 7/8. Grand Metropolitan PLC said it completed a financing package for its $60-a-share offer to acquire Pillsbury.
Gerber Products shares rose 1 5/8 to 51 7/8. The firm said its stock was up because of the bid for Pillsbury Co. and heightened speculation about other possible acquisition candidates in the food industry.
Seagate Technology, which said late Wednesday that it would post a loss for its most recent quarter, dropped 5/8 to 7 3/8 in the over-the-counter market.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed up 5.48 at 2,710.295.
The NYSE’s composite index of all its listed common stocks gained 0.31 to 153.93.
Standard & Poor’s industrial index rose 0.76 to 312.66, and S&P;'s 500-stock composite index was up 0.53 at 272.39.
The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market added 0.63 to 385.15. At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index closed at 301.14, up 1.17.
In Tokyo, share prices fell sharply on Thursday to close lower for the fifth straight day as the precarious health of Emperor Hirohito loomed over the market. The Nikkei 225-share index fell 233.15 points to 27,172.34.
On the London Stock Exchange, share prices showed a firmer trend in late trading, posting new highs on the day, after modest profit-taking around mid-session. At the close the Financial Times 100-share index was up 12.6 points at 1,838.9.