NEW YORK, NOV. 23 -- The Dow Jones industrial average eased 12 points today and the biggest trading news was that there was no trading for 94 minutes -- because of a power failure.
With volume at barely 60 million shares, the lightest since Dec. 26, 1986, the session proved even more of a non-event than the skeleton crews on major brokerage trading desks had expected.
The power outage at the New York Stock Exchange marked the first time in recent memory that the Big Board suspended trading because of technical problems within the exchange's own electrical system. (The outage lasted from 9:41 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.)
The outage was a clear embarrassment for the New York Stock Exchange, which has repeatedly boasted of its technological prowess.
"You never want to take a hit like this, but if you do, you want it on a relatively slow day like today," said a NYSE source.
In a seeming contradiction, the exchange expressed great satisfaction about how rapidly it identified and solved the problem, but then was curiously vague in saying publicly what it was.
"We were very pleased that we were able to identify the problem quickly," said Richard Torrenzano, the NYSE's chief spokesman.
Asked what the problem was, however, Torrenzano said: "The problem was a power interruption. Beyond that, I can't be more specific. That will all be determined as we conduct our in-depth investigation." He said that inquiry would be completed within a few days or weeks.
Troubled by stepped-up competition from regional and foreign stock exchanges, the NYSE in recent years has actively publicized its technological overhaul.
The costly renovation has given it the ability to process trades totaling 600 million shares in a single day with the same ease that it handled a 200-million-share day in 1987.
Handling that kind of volume was not a problem today.
The Dow closed at 2527.23, down 12.13, while declines narrowly edged advances on the Big Board on minuscule volume of 64.4 million shares.
For the week, the Dow slumped 23 points, retreating from last week's 61-point advance.
Among the few conspicuously traded stocks, MCA Inc. skidded 3 1/8 to 65 3/8 by the close.
Traders said there was some sense that MCA may be holding out for the high end of an estimated buyout price in talks with Japan's Matsushita Electric.
Caterpillar traded actively, tumbling 3 points to 39 3/8 after Goldman, Sachs cut its 1990 and 1991 earnings estimates, premised in part on weakening October sales figures for the heavy-machinery giant, traders said.
Among the handful of other active issues were Eli Lilly, up 2 5/8 at 64 5/8, and Texas Utilities, down 1 1/8 at 36 3/4.
The Dow transports lost 5.72 to close at 844.13, while the utilities rose 0.31 to 209.00.
Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 0.93 at 315.10, the NYSE Composite fell 0.34 at 172.39, the Value Line rose 0.31 at 228.45 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.27 at 349.04.