NEW YORK, DEC. 21 -- The Dow Jones industrial average rose 4 points today in a relatively tame pre-holiday session. Volume, however, soared amid massive expirations of stock index futures, index options and common stock options known as the quarterly "triple witching."
"It's been all expirations-related," said trader Tim Hellman at Dreyfus Corp. "Nobody did much of anything in the cash market."
Chief trader Thomas Gallagher at Oppenheimer & Co. said, "Nobody's doing anything heavy in the cash market right now.
At the close, the Dow stood at 2633.66, up 4.20. Advancing issues slightly edged declining ones on the Big Board on heavy, expirations-inflated volume of 223 million shares.
Systems Center, which makes mainframe software for IBM, was the day's big loser, plummeting 4 1/2 to 4 7/8 following Thursday's announcement that fourth-quarter earnings would be disappointing.
Merck closed up 1 1/2 at 87 5/8 after its announcement Thursday that it has been testing a new AIDS drug on humans for a month.
USF&G slipped 1/8 in dividend related trading, closing at 7 3/4.
Airline stocks moved in response to various news. AMR fell 5/8 to 49 7/8 after the Justice Department said it would review the proposed sale of TWA's international routes to American Airlines. Meanwhile, UAL gained 2 1/4 to 112 1/2.
Black & Decker shed 5/8 to 10 1/8 following the company's announcement that business-adverse conditions in Brazil would result in lower earnings than expected.
The Dow transports rose 8.24 to 923.91, while the utilities advanced 1.51 to 211.39.
Among broad stock indexes, blue-chip averages slightly outperformed secondary measures for much of the day. The Standard & Poor's 500 closed up 1.63 at 331.75, the New York Stock Exchange Composite rose 0.55 at 180.87, the Value Line was up 0.15 at 240.87, the Amex Market Value fell 0.29 at 306.20 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.38 at 373.60.