Wall Street stocks extended their rally to three days Wednesday, squeezing out minor gains in a sluggish session as investors worried about the future of the economy and interest rates.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 5.98 points at 2,281.52, adding to its 32.5-point gain the last two days.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones slightly on the New York Stock Exchange, with 727 up, 643 down and 559 unchanged.
Big Board volume totaled 144.24 million shares, against 146.42 million in the previous session.
Traders welcomed new evidence of a cooling economy, which may ease upward pressure on interest rates. The index of leading indicators, a key barometer of the economy’s future, fell 0.3% last month--its first monthly slide since September, the government said in the morning.
The news, combined with reports of lower retail sales, housing starts, manufacturers’ operating rates and durable goods orders in February, signaled to many traders that the economy is leveling off. But others said the economy’s future is still ambiguous, citing last month’s 1.0% jump in producer prices as evidence of inflationary pressures.
“A lot of people are waiting from one set of numbers to another,” said Jack Solomon, technical analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co. Investors now await the April 7 report on March unemployment for further market direction, he said.
Other than the indicators data there was little fresh news to stimulate the market, which has been plagued by lethargy, traders said.
“It was a narrow rally concentrated in the blue chip stocks,” said analyst Newton F. Zinder of Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc. “The rally at best can only be described as mediocre.”
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities ended at 2,889.13, up 7.404 from Tuesday’s close.
The NYSE’s composite index rose 0.37 to 164.25.
At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index rose 0.13 to 325.58.
Share prices closed at another record high on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday. The 225-share Nikkei index, which gained 793.96 points Tuesday in its largest single-day rise this year, added another 430.92 points, or 1.3%, finishing the day at 32,737.28.
In London, share prices managed to shrug off news of a widening British trade gap, recovering in the afternoon to end the day mixed. At the close, the Financial Times 100-share index was up 1.2 points at 2,071.7.