NEW YORK, SEPT. 11 -- The Dow Jones industrial average dipped almost 3 points today after a lackluster session in which stocks continued to move inversely to the price of crude oil.

Analysts said the stock market remained extremely cautious about both the Middle East and federal budget-cutting negotiations.

"Continued uncertainty over the Mideast is hampering the decision-making process for investors, more than anything else," Hennessey added.

For much of the session, block traders said the Dow swung in a narrow, 21-point range, generally responding inversely to swings in oil prices. Crude oil futures closed lower in moderate trading, with October light sweet cruded ending at $30.76 a barrel, down 54 cents for the day.

Some analysts said that as long as stocks cannot exhibit a direction of their own, strong new leadership is unlikely to emerge.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2612.62, down 2.97, while declines outpaced advances by a ratio of about 8 to 6, a margin more in keeping with session lows at midday. New York Stock Exchange volume was very light at 113 million shares.

Technology stocks took a particular beating yesterday, led by Tandem, which closed down 2 1/8 to close at 11 1/2 on most-active volume of over 2.5 million shares. The company announced that its growth rate might not meet analysts' expectations, and that revenue had been crimped by weakness in the banking system, which buys much of its equipment, as well as by general economic malaise.

Compaq also was taken down 1 7/8 to close at 43 1/4 after announcing a 20 percent cut in its retail prices for personal computers.

Other high-tech issues were caught in the downdraft: Digital Equipment, down 1 3/8 to 63 5/8; Cray Research, down 1 1/8 to 34 3/8; Motorola, down 1 3/8 to 59 7/8; Apple Computer, off 1 3/4 at 34; Intel, off 1/2 to 31 3/4; Conner Peripherals, off 1 at 22 1/2; and Lotus Development, down 2 to 16.

But Texas Instruments soared 3 1/2 to 28 1/8 in anticipation of a Japanese newspaper article that would report the company would seek $1.5 billion in royalty payments in Japan on its patent for the basic computer chip known as the dynamic random access memory.

Circuit City shares fell 1 1/2 to 15 5/8 in heavy trading after Salomon Brothers lowered its earning estimate.

Bank stocks were undermined by a General Accounting Office report that identified 35 large banks as "in such severe financial condition that without some form of recapitalization, they are likely to fail or require assistance within the next year." Bankers Trust skidded 1 1/8 to 37 1/8, Wells Fargo lost 1 to 56 5/8 and 12 out of 15 money-center banks lost ground, at least fractionally.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 0.59 at 321.04, the NYSE Composite was off 0.31 at 176.39, the Value Line fell 0.88 to 246.41, the Amex Market Value was down 0.20 to 323.01 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.24 to 379.49.