Technology stocks pulled out of a deep hole on Thursday, pulling the entire stock market up with them.
The Dow Jones industrials meandered throughout the morning but shot higher about 1:30 p.m. EDT, ending up 22.04 points at 4,762.71, breaking a three-day losing streak.
Despite the Dow's sizable gain, advancers had only a slim lead over decliners on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was moderately heavy at 367.42 million shares, up from 339.34 million on Wednesday.
Broad market indexes, which are heavily laden with technology shares, rose. The NYSE composite index rose 0.27 point to 312.01. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 1.16 points to 582.63. The Nasdaq composite index rose 11.93 points to 1,014.20. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index rose 0.30 point to 532.40.
Yet there was more nervousness in the market than the rise in indexes might suggest.
"The feeling is that the market's probably just fine," said John Burnett, a stock trader at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities, "but we are up against some pretty lofty levels, and a number of stocks that look like they should have broken out on the upside did not. There's just a little bit of a ceiling on things."
But if there is a ceiling on stock prices, there is also a floor. Technology shares dropped sharply in early trading, as investors continued Wednesday's strategy of taking profits in that sector. Then they recovered in the afternoon.
"They tried to break them, but they're finding some buyers coming in," said Leon Brand, a global market strategist at NatWest Securities.
The dollar fell against the Japanese yen and the German mark as investors lost hope that a weekend meeting of ministers of the seven leading industrial nations would do much to bolster the greenback.
In late New York trading, the dollar ended at 99.40 yen, down from 100.95 yen Wednesday.
In bond trading, yields fell to a new 19-month low as investors bet restrained economic growth leaves the Federal Reserve Board room to cut interest rates again this year.
The yield of the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond fell 1 basis point to 6.42%, the lowest since Feb. 11, 1994.
Among Thursday's highlights:
* On the Big Board, Micron Technology rose 3 3/8 to 74 1/2 and had second-highest volume of the day, with 5.7 million shares changing hands. Texas Instruments rose 1 3/8 to 74 7/8. IBM added 3/4 to 94 1/2.
* In Nasdaq trading, Intel was the biggest volume mover, with 9.9 million shares changing hands; its price rose 2 3/16 to 60 7/8. Microsoft rose 1 3/8 to 87 1/2, and Bay Networks shot up 5 to 55 3/8.
* Cyclical stocks--those that tend to move in tandem with the economy--led the Dow industrials higher. Alcoa rose 2 to 51 1/2, DuPont rose 2 to 67 1/8 and Allied Signal rose 1 3/8 to 44 1/8.
Brand pointed out that many of these companies are also multinational and so they were seen as benefiting from Thursday's weaker dollar.
* Retail stocks, meanwhile, were mixed as largely disappointing September sales figures were released throughout the day. Sears, Roebuck rose 1 1/4 to 36 5/8 after the Chicago-based chain said sales at stores open at least a year rose 4.5% in September.
Wal-Mart closed unchanged at 23 7/8 after reporting a 4.2% rise in same-store sales. The Gap gained 2 1/2 to 38 1/4 on its report of a 3% gain. And Dayton Hudson added 1 7/8 to 74 1/2 after it said same-store sales rose 5.3%. But Kmart fell 11/16 to 12 13/16 after it reported that sales rose 4.1% in September, and J.C. Penney fell 3/8 to 47 5/8 after saying its sales fell 0.9%.
Investors were bracing for today's release of the September unemployment rate, which is expected to hold steady at 5.6% on job gains of about 195,000.
In what could be a preview of that number, the Labor Department said Thursday morning that first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose by 6,000 last week, the biggest increase in three weeks. Many analysts had expected an increase of about 8,000.
In commodities trading, oil prices plummeted on a rumor that Iraq is considering accepting a standing U.N. offer to make a onetime sale of crude for humanitarian reasons.
Iraqi officials in Baghdad and at the United Nations said the rumor was untrue, but market reacted nonetheless to the hint that Iraq's embargoed oil could flood the market.
Meanwhile, prices of cotton, lumber and energy contracts dropped amid a sense of relief that Hurricane Opal did not wreak catastrophic damage to those industries.
The Commodity Research Bureau index of 21 commodities sank 1.62 points to 239.36.
November crude fell 43 cents to $16.87 a barrel, reaching a 10-week low. November heating oil dropped 0.88 cent to 47.97 cents a gallon, and November gasoline lost 1.85 cents to 48.89 cents, the lowest level for a spot contract in nearly a year.
In overseas trading, Tokyo's 225-share Nikkei average finished up 75.33 points, at 18,220.41. London shares ended little changed, with the FTSE-100 closing at 3,544.4, up 0.3 point.
In Mexico, the 37-share Bolsa index closed up 80.52 points at 2,347.65. Activity was heavy at 134 million shares.