Dow Edges Up 8.58 in Slow Trading

From Times Wire Services

The stock market pieced together a moderate gain Friday in a quiet session.

The Dow Jones index of 30 industrials rose 8.58 to 2,274.29, stretching its gain for the week to 28.75 points.

Advancing issues outnumbered declines by about 3 to 2 in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks.

Volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 151.79 million shares, down from 161.98 million in the previous session.


Blue chips have been depressed by fears of future rate hikes, which hurt stocks by raising corporate borrowing costs and luring investors away to interest-bearing assets.

But Friday’s trading was listless, analysts said. Blue chips attracted interest only because investors sought cheap purchases after last week’s 79.28-point Dow loss.

“The market just didn’t have any gusto today,” said market analyst Hugh Johnson of First Albany Corp.

“There is a tug of war in investors’ minds between inflation fears and recession fears. This indecision caused a directionless market today,” said Donald Hays, director of investment strategy at Wheat First Securities.


Texas Air, the most active issue on the American Stock Exchange, dropped 1/4 to 13 as President Bush decided against intervening in the labor dispute involving the company’s Eastern Airlines subsidiary.

Among other airline issues, Delta Air Lines gained 1 5/8 to 56 1/4, Pan Am rose 1/4 to 4 1/4 and NWA climbed 1 1/4 to 69 1/4. But UAL dropped 1 3/8 to 119 and AMR was down 1/8 at 58 3/4.

TW Services rose 5/8 to 28 1/2 in active trading. The stock traded lower for much of the session on word that a Delaware court upheld the “poison pill” defense the company is employing to fight a takeover bid by Coniston Partners.

In foreign trading, Tokyo shares fell amid a slumping bond market after Bank of Japan Governor Satoshi Sumita said Japan will take adequate, early action to maintain stable prices if necessary. The Nikkei 225-share average fell 73.63 to 32,000.10.

On the London Stock Exchange, shares closed firmer after Wall Street recovered from a lower opening. The Financial Times 100-share index closed 19.5 higher at 2,059.2.


Bond prices were mixed in lackluster trading, finishing little changed despite early declines in the face of an overnight drop by the dollar.

The Treasury’s benchmark 30-year bond was down 1/16 point late Friday. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction from its price, was unchanged from late Thursday at 9.12%.


After surging Thursday, bond prices opened sharply lower in response to the dollar’s decline overnight in foreign exchange overseas, analysts said. A declining dollar hurts bond prices by reducing yields available to foreign investors, who are sizeable holders of dollar-denominated debt.

The market recovered some ground after reports that Venezuela was making payments on its $33-billion foreign debt conditional on the success of its government austerity program. The dollar finished lower, but did not drag the bond market with it, analysts said.

The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, was quoted at 9.50%, down from 9.813% late Thursday.


The dollar declined against several key currencies in domestic dealings after a mixed performance overseas.

Gold prices rose. Republic National Bank of New York quoted a bid of $386.30 for an ounce of gold at 4 p.m. EST, up from $383.50 late Thursday.

Currency dealers described trading as trendless, with little news to influence the dollar’s movement. However, they said a sentiment persisted among market participants that efforts to relieve inflationary pressures, including increases in interest rates, may affect exchange rates soon.

“The market was basically featureless the last few days,” said Kevin Laurie, manager of foreign exchange trading at the Bank of Boston operation in New York. “We’re waiting for some information to push the dollar out of the recent range.”


In European currency markets, dealers said the Bank of England bought sterling several times during the session in a bid to maintain the British currency’s exchange rate, but the action failed to prevent a fall.

The pound ended the London business day at $1.7240, cheaper for buyers than Thursday’s $1.7270 and its lowest level in London since Oct. 11. But later, in New York, sterling fetched $1.72025, up from $1.7125 in New York on Thursday.

Other late dollar rates in New York, compared to Thursday’s levels, included: 1.8437 West German marks, down from 1.8474; 1.57515 Swiss francs, down from 1.5824; 1.19505 Canadian dollars, up from 1.19485; 6.2645 French francs, down from 6.2880, and 1,358.00 Italian lire, down from 1,361.33.

Earlier, in Tokyo, the dollar closed at 128.12 Japanese yen, up from 128.07 yen late Thursday. In London, the dollar was trading lower, at 127.98 yen, and at 127.815 yen in New York, down from 128.435 on Thursday.


Persistent supply concerns pushed copper futures prices sharply higher on New York’s Commodity Exchange, capping a weeklong rally that boosted copper by more than 10%.

On other exchanges, precious metals also advanced; energy futures retreated; pork bellies plummeted, leading livestock futures lower, and grains and soybeans were mixed.

Copper settled 2.4 cents to 5.6 cents higher, with the most active contract, for delivery in May, at $1.437 a pound. The spot March contract finished at $1.53 a pound, to $1.386 a week earlier.

Prices rose despite an apparent reduction in tensions between Peruvian copper miners and the government.

In Peru, the world’s sixth-largest copper-producing nation, the National Federation of Mine Workers continued plans for a 3-day “warning strike” beginning March 26. The miners contend that the government has not honored the agreement that ended a 57-day strike late last year.

The union said friday that it was willing to accept some compromises in the interim before the strike, although workers did not rule out possibly extending the strike beyond three days.

Copper’s underlying supply-and-demand factors remained overwhelmingly bullish, with near-term availability extremely limited going into the second quarter, historically a period of heavy consumption.

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