NEW YORK, JAN. 27 -- The stock market moved erratically today, hitching an early ride on a bond market rally but closing mixed.
The Dow Jones index of 30 industrial stocks, up more than 16 points at noon, finished at 1911.14, down 9.45. But gainers outnumbered decliners by about 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Big Board volume totaled 176.36 million shares, up from 138.38 million shares Tuesday.
"The market seems to be looking for some sense of direction, and hasn't found that element or elements that are reasonable to focus on," said Eugene Peroni, an analyst at the Philadelphia securities firm of Janney Montgomery Scott Inc.
Trading began on a solid note, when prices rose on the coattails of a bond rally that followed release of a government report showing that the nation's gross national product rose 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter.
This was more than many economists expected. But much of the increase resulted from a $41.6 billion rise in business inventories. That bulge was viewed as a sign that the economy was slowing down, which would leave room for the Federal Reserve to relax interest rates.
As bond prices rise, interest rates fall. That is good for business, and hence for stocks.
Some stock analysts also were encouraged by a part of the GNP report suggesting that inflation would be lower than expected.
In early afternoon, however, a burst of program selling upset the rally, sending many stock sharply lower. In such trading, professionals use computers to profit on differences between stock index futures and their underlying baskets of stocks.
Hildegarde Zagorski, an analyst at Prudential-Bache Securities Inc., said the market's problem was that "it has no point of view. It jumps on every statistic, and swings from every branch that happens to be there."
The market "had time to establish a focal point," Peroni said. "It was bolstered by the bond market, but it didn't hold -- demonstrating that the psychology is very brittle."
American Standard led the Big Board's most-active list, closing up 20 5/8 at 58 5/8. The company is the target of a $56-a-share offer announced today by Black & Decker, which closed at 19 1/8, down 1 1/4.
Among other takeover-related issues, Eastman Kodak, which slumped after the company offered $89.50 per share for Sterling Drug last week, was down 5/8 at 42 3/4.
Federated Department Stores closed down 5/8 at 50. On Monday, Campeau Corp. bid $4.2 billion for it.