NEW YORK, JAN. 29 -- Wall Street stocks closed slightly higher today, as a scarcity of fresh war news from the Middle East kept trading subdued.
Smaller stocks, including some technology companies, attracted investor interest, while blue chips gained only mildly.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 8.16 points to close at 2662.62. Gaining stocks narrowly led losers on New York Stock Exchange volume of 155.7 million shares.
The lack of war news prompted many investors to stay on the sidelines, analysts said.
"It appears institutions are willing to take their time as far as committing their cash," said Peter Davies, a vice president at Nomura Securities International Inc.
Oil traders, by contrast, pushed prices higher on fears of a wider Persian Gulf War after Monday's report of a television interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein saying Iraqi Scud missiles can carry nuclear, chemical and germ warheads.
Crude oil for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed 89 cents higher at $21.85 a barrel. Oil products rose in sympathy, with unleaded gasoline for February delivery ending 2.72 cents up at 64.85 cents a gallon and heating oil gaining 2.15 cents to 70.43 cents a gallon.
Stock analysts said they continue to expect the Federal Reserve will lower interest rates to revive the sluggish economy, a prospect that may help relieve some war worries and boost small-capitalization issues.
"As short-term rates go down, small-cap stocks have a tendency to outperform," said Joseph Barthel, director of investment strategy at W.H. Newbold's Son & Co. "Small companies generally borrow short term."
Others said they were far from certain about the short-term direction of the stock market. "Right in here we have a tug-of-war," said Alfred Goldman, director of technical research at A.G. Edwards and Sons Inc.
Traders said the market largely ignored the government's stronger-than-expected report on durable goods orders, which rose 4.4 percent in December, above the projected 2.5 percent gain.
Commodore International added 1 1/8 to 14 7/8 in brisk trading after its fourth-quarter earnings exceeded analysts' estimates.
Boeing Co., which dipped Monday after reporting fourth-quarter results, rebounded to 47 1/4, up 3/8. Goldman Sachs & Co. raised its five-year earnings estimate on the company.
Health care stocks climbed after publication of an industry survey showing corporate spending on employee health care is still rising.
U.S. Healthcare's projection of strong fourth-quarter earnings helped it rise 3 1/8 to 34 7/8. Sierra Health Services gained 1 to 16 3/4, and Pacificare rose 2 1/2 to 20.
McDonald's Corp. lost 1 to 26 3/4. It said Monday it expects 1991 to be a tougher environment from an economic and competitive standpoint, and Shearson Lehman Brothers Inc. lowered its 1991 estimate for the company.
The NYSE composite index fell 0.10 to 183.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.19 to 335.84. The American Stock Exchange index rose 0.73 to 310.57, and the Nasdaq over-the-counter index was up 3.81 to 400.61.