NEW YORK, DEC. 24 -- The stock market drifted through a slow Christmas Eve session today, finishing with mostly small and mixed price changes.
The dollar, meanwhile, fell in thin trading, nudged downward by pessimism over how much real support the major industrial nations have for the U.S. currency.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials dropped 5.97 to 1999.67, reducing its gain for the week to 24.37 points. Advancing issues slightly outnumbered declines on the New York Stock Exchange.
Big Board volume came to 108.80 million shares, down from 203.11 million Wednesday and the lightest total since 86.36 million were traded on Nov. 27, the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The volume figure today would have been a good deal lower had it not been for large blocks in several utility stocks traded by professionals in strategies keyed to the companies' impending quarterly dividends.
The day began quietly, and activity slowed to a trickle as the session passed and many investors got an early start on the long holiday weekend.
Analysts said the market's rally since early December, which produced its first sustained advance since the October crash, had lifted investors' spirits. But they also said doubts persisted about how long it could continue.
Prices rose Wednesday in response to a statement by leading industrialized nations declaring that the dollar need not fall much more. However, some observers questioned whether the communique represented any new substantial progress toward resolving international trade imbalances.
The high-yielding utilities that dominated the active list included Southern California Edison, off 1/8 at 31 1/8; Northern States Power, unchanged at 29 5/8; Rochester Gas & Electric, unchanged at 15 1/4; and Montana Power, up 5/8 at 31 7/8. Turnover in those four issues exceeded 27 million shares, about one-fourth of the day's total.
Among the blue chips, International Business Machines was up 3/8 at 119 7/8; American Telephone & Telegraph dropped 5/8 to 27 1/2; Merck rose 1/2 to 160 1/2; and General Electric fell 3/4 to 46.
Pueblo International jumped 6 7/8 to 23 1/8. An investor group including members of the company's management made a $24.50-a-share buyout offer.
Phillips Petroleum, which has been discussed lately as a possible takeover candidate, rose 3/8 to 13 1/4.
As measured by Wilshire Associates' index of more than 5,000 actively traded stocks, the market lost $8.12 billion, or .33 percent, in value.
The NYSE's composite index of all its listed common stocks slipped 0.51 to 140.85.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials fell 0.80 to 292.38, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was down 1.14 at 252.02.
The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market dipped 1.58 to 333.06. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 260.90, up 0.46.
Gold prices rose, with Republic National Bank of New York quoted a bid of $486.50 for a troy ounce of gold, up more than $3 from $483.35 Wednesday.
In Tokyo, where trading ends before Europe's business day begins, the dollar rose 0.10 yen to a closing 126.65. Later, in London, it was quoted at a lower rate of 125.98 yen, and in New York it slipped to 125.90 yen from Wednesday's 126.65 yen.
In London, the dollar fell against the British pound. It cost $1.8320 to buy one pound, more expensive than $1.8205 late Wednesday.