NEW YORK, JULY 16 -- The Dow Jones industrial average flirted once again with the magic of 3000 -- dallying at midafternoon at 3008 -- but retired for the night 0.25 points short of the mark at 2999.75.

Feeding on last week's momentum, the prospect of lower interest rates and some better-than-expected earnings reports for the second quarter, the Dow gained 19.55 points today in moderate trading.

''The 'magic 3000' number is clearly seen as a psychological boost in the arm for the market,'' said technician Paul Kronlokken at Piper Jaffray and Hopwood. "It has been a magnet for the Dow ever since we broke through the early June high of 2935.

''But also disappointing was the big falloff in volume today, and the fact that breadth actually got a little worse than on Friday, not better, even though the Dow hit a new record. There was just not as much follow-through as one would have wished.''

Trading strength in the afternoon market was largely in ''big, identifiable names that are not seen to be particularly overextended here,'' said Michael Metz at Oppenheimer and Co.

"The market is still enjoying the universe of under-invested institutions, but the question is, for how long?'' he said.

Chief trader Jeffrey Kaminsky at Mabon, Nugent, however, stressed that fundamentally, the market appeared to be on solid ground.

A sluggish bonds market helped create a sense of caution about how much interest rates would really come down and whether a sluggish economy would eventually pull down share prices later in the day.

At the close, advancing issues outpaced declining ones on the Big Board by only a modest 4-to-3 ratio on volume of 149 million shares, a 30 percent drop from Friday's more energetic rally.

Aside from index-arbitrage activity -- which was generally supportive until the last hour of trading -- the undercurrent of action remained steadfastly buoyant due to the flow of corporate earnings.

IBM set the tone for reports today by announcing that second-quarter profit was up 5.2 percent on higher revenue. IBM shares closed up 1 3/8 at 122 3/8.

Similar action occurred in Dow blue-chip Alcoa, which reported earnings down 43 percent compared with a year ago, but that was within the range expected. Alcoa closed up 1/2 at 69 1/4.

NCR Corp. fared better, surging 3 7/8 to 68 after reporting a strong second-quarter net.

Special situations also helped keep the tone of trading positive.

Cummins Engine, which agreed over the weekend to sell a 27 percent interest to three firms -- Ford, Tenneco and Japan's Kubota -- for $250 million, rose 3 1/8 to 54 3/8.

The agreement was seen as contributing toward stabilizing operations in the face of potential hostile buyout attempts as well as trimming interest expenses.

NCNB, running against the trend in bank earnings, rose 1 3/4 to 36 1/2 after announcing second-quarter profit up by 50 percent.

Nike surged to a new 52-week high, adding 2 1/4 to 94, after details were released of the sale of controlling interest in Adidas to French financier Bernard Tapie.

Warrants of RJR Nabisco Holdings slipped 3/8 to 7 after the company announced details of a $6.9 billion recapitalization program.

United Technologies gained 1 5/8 to 60 1/2 as its second-quarter earnings estimate drew a favorable response from the market. The company said Friday it expects net income to be about even with a year ago after taking a $30 million pretax charge for a plant closing.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 finally moved to a new record-high close of 368.95, up 1.64, besting its June 4 close of 367.40.

The S&P 500 failed to post a new record on both Thursday and Friday as the Dow pushed to new highs.

The NYSE scored its second straight record high, finishing up 0.80 at 201.13.

Among secondary-weighted indexes, however, the Value Line was up 0.67 at 290.93, the Amex Market Value up 1.59 at 365.58 and the Nasdaq Composite up 1.16 at 469.60, all well below their record highs.