NEW YORK, MARCH 3 -- The stock market posted inconclusive results today in a session marked by intense takeover speculation and some selling of blue chips.
The Dow Jones average of 30 big-name industrials slipped 7.80 to 2063.49.
Advancing issues outnumbered declines by about 9 to 8 on the New York Stock Exchange. Big Board volume totaled 203.31 million shares, against 199.63 million in the previous session. The NYSE's composite index edged up .02 at 150.70.
Analysts said the market faced continued selling from investors cashing in profits from the recent rally or just feeling skeptical about its chances to go much further. But they also noted that many participants have been impressed by the market's ability to absorb that selling without retreating much from the early-1988 highs they reached early this week.
Optimists who believe the economy can escape a recession despite the market collapse last October may get some further support for their hopes when the Labor Department issues its monthly report Friday on the employment situation.
Some advance estimates call for the figures to show a healthy increase in payroll employment of 150,000 or more for February.
Koppers Co. jumped 6 5/8 to 51 3/4. An investment group including the Wall Street firm of Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc. began a $45-a-share offer for the company, and traders quickly concluded that a higher bid or bids might be in the offing.
Takeover rumors and speculation swirled around such other stocks as Texas Eastern, up 2 3/4 at 32, and Firestone Tire & Rubber, up 2 7/8 at 49 1/2.
Home Depot rose 1 1/4 to 24 3/8. The stock was added to Standard & Poor's 500-stock composite index.
Airline stocks were broadly higher, aided by signs of easing fare competition. Delta Air Lines gained 7/8 to 48 7/8; AMR 2 1/8 to 42 1/8; NWA 1 1/8 to 44 3/4; and Allegis 1 1/4 to 77. The group has also gotten a lift lately from weakness in oil prices.
Sears, Roebuck, which reported a 2.5 percent gain in retail sales for February, dropped 1 to 38 3/4. Other losers among the blue chips included International Business Machines, down 3/4 at 116 1/2; Philip Morris, down 2 1/8 at 93; General Electric, down 3/8 at 44 3/4; and Merck, down 1/2 at 163 3/4.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 233.42 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials dropped 0.26 to 309.34, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was down .10 at 267.88.
The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market rose 1.63 to 372.01. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 292.51, up 1.59.