NEW YORK, AUG. 14 -- The Dow Jones industrial average rose a point in dull, directionless trading today as investors waited for further developments in the Middle East and the conflict's impact on the world's economy.
The only noticeable direction during the day was a steady movement toward stocks of food processors and pharmaceutical companies, which continued to benefit from defensive, "recession-hedge" buying amid the military buildup in Saudi Arabia.
Asked about feature in today's market, chief trader Dan Murphy at C.J. Lawrence replied, "What market? With an hour of trading left, we had barely passed 100 million shares ...
"People are glad the market has held up for a second day, and they're convinced most of the institutional selling has been completed" in the wake of Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent 50 percent surge in global crude-oil prices, he said.
"It's going to take some kind of news from the Middle East to make the market rally decisively or drop the 'other shoe,' " Murphy said.
Other traders said that stocks responded positively to the quieter tone of international markets after Monday's plunge in Japanese stocks and hefty losses in Britain as well.
The market was also reassured by some backtracking in gold prices. Gold futures, which had surged as high as $415 per ounce, up $18 since Friday's close, gave back much of its two-day gains, finishing at $404.80.
Stocks showed little reaction to morning data on retail sales in July, which weighed in much lower than expected. And although the bond market initially slumped on news of a significant upward revision in June retail sales, bonds rebounded to a modest gain during the afternoon. At the close, the Dow stood at 2747.77, up 0.99, while advances led declines on the Big Board by a slight margin under thin market conditions where only 130 million shares changed hands.
The Dow skidded 16 points in early trading to a low near 2730, then rallied as much as 19 points to 2765 by midafternoon before skidding again into the close.
Among Dow components, the only leadership seemed to come from Procter & Gamble, which logged a full-point gain, closing at 82 3/4.
Among food processors, CPC International rose 1 7/8 to 79 7/8, ConAgra added 1 3/8 to 34 3/8, Kellogg gained 1 3/4 to 65 3/8, Ralston Purina moved up 1 5/8 to 95 5/8 and Castle and Cooke tacked on 7/8 to 38 1/4.
In the drug area, American Home Products added 1 1/4 to 48 7/8, Marion Merrill Dow gained 1 7/8 to 31 1/2 and Upjohn advanced 1 3/8 to 40 3/4.
Retail stocks were mostly mixed following the Commerce Department report that retail sales had posted a weak 0.1 percent gain.
But J.C. Penney, conspicuously weak over the last few sessions, fell 2 to 48 1/2 after it reported lower second-quarter earnings and attributed the decline to poor consumer demand.
May Department Stores rose 1 5/8 to 46 5/8, however, after second-quarter net weighed in at 58 cents per share, compared to 49 cents a year ago. Alexander's led the gainers among retailers, however, with a 3 3/8 rise to 36 3/4.
The Dow transports fell 11.12 to 967.71, partially on word that major carriers had joined in fare cuts announced Monday by TWA and Eastern, even as fuel prices were rising.
AMR, parent of American Airlines, lost 2 to close at 49 1/8 in heavy trading, while UAL, parent of United Airlines, fell 4 1/2, closing at 105 5/8. Shares of Delta Airlines closed at 57 1/2, down 1 7/8.
The interest-sensitive Dow utilities edged 0.51 point higher to 204.48 as the U.S. 30-year Treasury bond rallied 10/32 following several days of decline.
Among broad stock indexes, secondary averages fared better than on Monday, when they lagged blue-chip measures.
The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.55 at 339.39, the NYSE Composite rose 1.93 at 186.10, the Value Line climbed 0.77 at 263.13, the Amex Market Value was up 1.94 at 339.94 (reflecting only today's trading; operations had been interrupted on Monday due to power failure) and the Nasdaq Composite was up 2.03 at 410.33.