NEW YORK, AUG. 20 -- The Dow Jones industrial average rose 11 points today in thin, choppy trading as short sellers and day traders maneuvered for advantage and program traders generally supported the market.
But with the bond market essentially directionless before Tuesday's Federal Reserve policy meeting, and with Mideast tensions still running high, block traders said there were few "heroes" among institutional money managers willing to take substantial new positions in the cash market.
Polling agencies have reported bullish sentiment nearing 20 percent among short-term traders, while others have attested to the rise in bearish sentiment among institutional investors, estimated by some outfits to be nearing 50 percent. Both are contrarian indications suggesting a market rally may be imminent, traders said.
Other traders pointed out that, historically, "war scares" have ultimately been bullish for the stock market, not bearish.
Strategist Gene Jay Seagle at Gruntal and Co. said, "Recall that the 'October missile crisis' of 1962 occurred at a time when the market had already been trending down for eight months. We were dealing with nuclear war then -- not conventional war," he said. "But when that war didn't happen, and tensions eased, the market turned on a dime and began an excellent bull move."
At the close, the Dow stood at 2656.44, up 11.64, but declines conspicuously outpaced advances on the New York Stock Exchange by a ratio of about 9 to 6 on light volume of 129 million shares.
Among Dow components, leadership was largely relegated to the oil stocks as Texaco rose 1 3/4 to 65 5/8 and Chevron gained 1 3/8 to 80, Atlantic Richfield rose 1 5/8 to 139 1/8, Pennzoil advanced 2 1/8 to 82 1/8 and Amerada-Hess tacked on 1 5/8 to 54 1/2.
Among industry groups, however, some prominent losers appeared among the financials -- Bankers Trust lost 1 1/8 to 35 3/4 and Federal National Mortgage Association gave up 1 1/8 to 29 3/4.
Drug stocks traded narrowly mixed, in contrast to striking gains during rallies last week. And food processors, also winners during rallies recently, traded sluggishly as well, although supermarkets fared better; Winn-Dixie rose 1 3/8 to 73 1/4 and A&P gained 1 5/8 to 52 3/4.
Among transportation stocks, there were a few prominent gainers. Union Pacific rose 2 7/8 to 73 3/8 among the rails, and UAL Corp. added 3 to 104 1/2 among the air carriers, but most moves were lackluster.
Gold shares were generally flat, but high-technology companies traded mixed. Some aerospace-defense outfits perked up -- McDonnell Douglas, for example, rose 1 1/8 to 44 7/8 on speculation that the crisis in the Persian Gulf will ensure the Pentagon's purchase of its massive C-17 military transport aircraft. But among computer-software companies, Microsoft fell 4 3/4 to 55 1/2, and among the semiconductor makers, Motorola skidded 2 1/4 to 69 5/8.
Shares in Herndon-based charter airline WorldCorp. closed the day up 7/8 at 5 3/4 after The Washington Post reported the company's planes have been hired to ferry U.S. personnel to Saudi Arabia. Trading was heavy.
Survival Technology Inc., the Bethesda-based firm that received a rush order from the Pentagon for its antidote to nerve gas, also added 1/4 to close at 13 1/2.
The Dow transports firmed 6.38 to 930.29, while the utilities edged up 0.31 to 201.46.
Among broad stock indexes, blue-chip measures fared better than secondary averages. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.68 at 328.51, the NYSE Composite rose 0.23 at 180.42, the Value Line was down 1.36 at 253.33, the Amex Market Value fell 2.32 at 331.29 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 4.90 at 388.59.