The stock market turned in an indecisive showing Thursday, pausing after its rally of the past three sessions.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, up 38.48 in the week’s first three trading days, slipped 0.18 to 2,281.34.
But advancing issues slightly outnumbered declines in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, with 726 up, 716 down and 498 unchanged.
Big Board volume came to 159.95 million shares, up from 144.24 million Wednesday.
NYSE trading has been listless this week. Only about 560 million shares have changed hands. But some analysts said Thursday’s performance was encouraging.
“There were more gains in some stocks than I’ve seen in a long time,” said Louis Ehrenkrantz, money manager at Reich & Co. “That’s a healthy sign. I think we’re looking at money seeking individual stock selections.”
But others said investors will wait until they have more confidence in the economy’s direction.
Analysts Still Concerned
“It (the market) is puzzling over what the trend of events might be,” said Monte Gordon, research director at Dreyfus Corp. “It’s a very emotional market. Three weeks ago we worried about inflation; now we’re worried about recession.”
The Commerce Department reported Thursday morning that new factory orders declined 2.3% in February.
That provided fresh support for the view that the pace of the economy began to slow last month.
But analysts have been reluctant to conclude from a single month’s data that the Federal Reserve has succeeded in its efforts to subdue inflationary pressures by tightening credit.
The first indication of whether the slowing continued in March isn’t expected to come until the Labor Department’s monthly employment report late next week.
In the meantime, stocks got little support from the bond market, where interest rates rose slightly.
Money center bank stocks were strong for the second straight session, apparently benefiting from increased confidence among institutional money managers about their prospects for weathering Third World debt problems.
Bank shares dominated the list of active stocks, rising before Sunday’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, which may clarify the Third World debt situation. A bank symposium Wednesday embraced Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady’s plan to reduce Third World debt, analysts said.
Citicorp rose 1 to 29 1/2, Chase Manhattan rose 1 3/8 to 37, BankAmerica added 5/8 to 24 1/2 and Continental Bank climbed 7/8 to 21.
Genentech Stock Falters
Illinois Power led the active list, down 1 3/4 at 14 on turnover of more than 4.3 million shares. The Illinois Commerce Commission granted a much smaller rate increase than the company had sought.
Genentech dropped 1 5/8 to 17 3/4. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study suggesting that the company’s clot-dissolving drug for treatment of heart attacks is no more effective than a much less expensive alternative drug.
Smithkline Beckman, which markets the alternative drug, rose 7/8 to 55 5/8. Smithkline has also been the subject lately of takeover rumors and speculation.
Sears, Roebuck rose 1/2 to 43 1/2. The company announced plans for a major revamping of its organizational structure.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 2,892.618, up 3.488.
Blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 3,337 compared to Wednesday’s 3,026.
The NYSE’s composite index of all its listed common stocks edged up 0.13 to 164.38.
Standard & Poor’s industrial index lost 0.06 to 336.86; its 500-stock composite index was up 0.17 at 292.52.
The NASDAQ composite index gained 0.86 to 404.56; the American Stock Exchange market-value index closed at 325.47, down 0.11.
Prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange soared to another record on the strength of a late rally Thursday, spurred by a weakening U.S. dollar and renewed interest in Japanese government bonds. The Nikkei 225-share index jumped 88.85 to close at 32,826.13, its second straight record high.
On the London Stock Exchange, share prices closed sharply lower after a steep drop in the afternoon. The Financial Times 100-share index fell 22.3, or 1.1%, to 2,049.4.