NEW YORK, SEPT. 17 -- The Dow Jones industrial average inched up 3 points today despite a historic gain in oil prices that took crude futures above $33 a barrel, their highest levels since 1983.
Stock traders stressed that trading volume was extremely light -- at 110 million shares, the third-lowest of the year -- indicating a lack of selling pressure despite the movement of oil prices. Institutional investors remained largely on the sidelines.
"The market performed better than expected," said technical analyst Newton Zinder at Lehman Brothers. "Stocks opened into sharply higher oil prices, falling bonds and lower stock markets overseas, yet gave a reasonably good account of themselves throughout the day."
Analyst Gene Jay Seagle at Gruntal and Co. said today's trading confirmed his view that the market has bottomed out.
"The market today refuses to react to the big jump in oil prices," he said. "It's saying to us that those who wanted 'out' of the market are now out, and that those who are sitting on high cash positions are frozen and unable to act, so selling pressures have relented." The low volume is typical of a bottoming process in a sold-out market.
At the close, the Dow stood at 2567.33, up 3.22, although declining issues slightly edged advancing ones on the Big Board.
Oil company shares benefited from the jump in crude prices. At the finish, Atlantic Richfield gained 1 3/4 to 141 5/8, Amoco rose 1 1/8 to 58 3/8, British Petroleum added 1 to 83 5/8, Mobil advanced 1 to 66 1/2, Royal Dutch moved up 1 7/8 to 84 3/4, Shell rallied 1 to 56 1/4 and Unocal tacked on 1 to 33 1/4 -- all in late-afternoon moves.
Computer issues were mixed. IBM was up 3/4 at 105 1/8 and Digital Equipment edged up 1/4 to 56 5/8, but Cray slipped 3/4 to 34 5/8, NCR lost 1 1/2 to 58 and Storage Technology gave up 1 1/4 to 16 3/8.
Among defense issues, Loral was up 1 at 30 1/4, but McDonnell Douglas skidded 2 to 49 7/8 after Smith Barney downgraded its investment rating from "hold" to "avoid."
Big banks continued to suffer from reports of stress in the financial system. Chase lost 3/4 to 15 7/8 and Barnett Bank slipped 1 1/4 to 21, although Wells Fargo bounced back 1 1/8 to 54 1/2 after some sharp losses last week.
The Dow transports eased 1.48 to 887.94. And the interest-sensitive Dow utility index rose 0.69 to 199.89 despite a 16/32 loss in the 30-year Treasury bond as stocks closed.
Among broad stock indexes, blue-chip measures fared slightly better than their secondary counterparts. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.94 at 317.77, while the NYSE Composite rose 0.47 to 174.62. But while the Amex Market Value managed a 0.26 gain to 321.71, the Value Line fell 0.61 to 242.26 and the Nasdaq Composite slumped 0.31 to 374.11.