NEW YORK, JAN. 11 -- The Dow Jones industrial average added 3 points in light, listless trading today as investors stood aside and traders squared positions in preparation for a possible war in the Middle East.

The Dow traded in a narrow, 14-point range all day, and what active trading there was seemed to be concentrated in stocks that received new brokerage recommendations.

But the primary focus of the market remained the Middle East. "Nobody wanted to take positions home this week," remarked strategist Jack Conlon at Rothschild Inc.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2501.49, up 2.73, while advances were ahead of declines on the Big Board by a ratio of only about 7 to 6 on light volume of 123 million shares.

Among industry groups, foods and drugs -- stocks that have been under persistent profit-taking pressures for a week -- showed some inclination to rally. Among the drug stocks, for example, Warner-Lambert gained 1 to 64 1/4 and Genentech added 1 1/4 to 22 1/4, while among the foods Kellogg rose 1 3/8 to 73 1/4.

But on the most-active list, Baker Hughes slipped 1 1/4 to 21 5/8 after Shearson Lehman cautioned clients against holding oil-service issues pending a Justice Department investigation into the rock-bit market -- an inquiry that has already resulted in subpoenas for several leading companies. Fully 2.2 million Baker Hughes shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange.

Motorola skidded 2 5/8 to 47 7/8 on NYSE volume of 2.4 million shares on news that Merrill Lynch Capital Markets has again marked down its 1991 earnings estimate, after an initial downgrade in November.

Orbital Sciences added 1 to 12 1/2 after Shearson issued a positive report. The stock fell 2 3/4 Thursday after Alex, Brown lowered its earnings estimate.

Lin Broadcasting fell 4 1/2 to 54 1/2 after Bear Stearns reiterated its suggestion to avoid the stock, citing eroding fundamentals.

MNC dropped 62 1/2 cents to $2.12 1/2 as the company approached crucial debt repayment deadlines next week.

The Dow transports gained a marginal 1.04 points to close at 905.46.

The interest-sensitive Dow utilities slipped 1.20 to 204.35 in line with a 10/32 loss in the U.S. 30-year Treasury bond, which settled back after Thursday's largely technical rally.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was up 0.70 at 315.23, the NYSE Composite up 0.35 at 172.78, the Value Line down 0.11 at 234.15, the Amex Market Value down 0.25 at 298.76 and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.12 at 361.80.