NEW YORK, OCT. 25 -- The Dow Jones industrial average fell 20 points today as stocks marched to the beat of the oil drum.
An oil price surge of more than $3 per barrel kept stocks at bay amid new Mideast war talk, even as the bond market rallied on optimism about a federal budget pact. The 30-year Treasury bond closed up more than half a point.
"There was some relief about the budget news, but saber rattling in the Middle East and higher oil prices overseas tempered the stock market's opening gains," said Kenneth Ducey, chief trader at S.G. Warburg.
At the close, the Dow stood at 2484.16, down 20.05, while declines outpaced advances on the Big Board by a ratio of 4 to 3 on moderate volume of 141 million shares.
Among Dow industrial components, Procter & Gamble sank 2 1/4 to 78 3/8 on the day, while Wednesday's star performer, IBM, slumped 1/2 to 108 1/8.
Yet corporate earnings today, with exceptions such as computer and airline companies, were generally "not so bad," remarked Thomas Gallagher, chief trader at Oppenheimer & Co.
One prominent casualty was Tenneco, which dropped 3 1/4 to 41 1/4 after reporting a disappointing profit gain of 2 cents a share.
Tandem Computer skidded 1 1/4 to 10 3/4 after reporting its quarterly net was down nearly 20 percent. But Sun Microsystems regained 7/8 to close at 15 5/8 following two days of steep declines on poor earnings news.
Among the most active stocks, Citicorp fell 1/4 to 11 5/8 after Wednesday's auction repricing.
MCA rose 6 7/8 to 57 after an opening delay, regaining 78 percent of its losses on Wednesday, when traders feared that buyout interest from Japan's Matsushita Electric might be fading. Matsushita denied that talks had broken off.
The Dow transports slipped 15.73 to 851.33, undermined by losses in Delta as well as Federal Express and AMR Corp. The interest-sensitive utilities eased 0.69 to 209.82, despite the gain in U.S. bonds.
Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 2.43 at 310.17, the NYSE Composite down 1.09 at 169.51, the Value Line down 0.34 at 223.10 and the Nasdaq Composite down 1.24 at 339.74, although the Amex Market Value edged up 0.09 to 292.78.