NEW YORK, FEB. 12 -- The stock market's bullish drive succumbed to profit-taking today in what analysts called a normal reaction to Monday's surge.
The Dow Jones industrial average of 30 stocks slid 27.48 points to close at 2874.75 after gaining nearly 72 points Monday. In the broader market, losing issues only slightly outnumbered those gaining. In choppy trading, volume on the New York Stock Exchange was still a heavy 256.2 million shares.
Analysts said today's loss doesn't mean the end of the three-week-old rally, which has carried the Dow up nearly 400 points since the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War, but they said the market instead is pausing with the expectation of further gains.
Traders described today's action as a "churning" type market, where anxious profit-takers and hedgers vied with late-coming institutional buyers for dominance of market direction.
"After yesterday, which was a buying panic, there was a return to reason," said Thom Brown, managing director at Rutherford Brown & Catherwood. "It's a very healthy correction."
"We may be starting a less euphoric or less exciting stage of the move -- it may be a stage where investors become more discriminatory, more discerning," said Hugh Johnson, senior vice president of First Albany Corp. in Albany, N.Y.
Traders said market sentiment remains high that the gulf war and the recession will be relatively short.
"We see money flowing out of fixed-income mutual funds and going into the equity market," said Brett Discher, vice president at Dain Bosworth.
"This market's very powerful. It's certainly a bull market," said Brown.
Oil prices, which have been focusing more on cold weather in Europe than the war, rallied in choppy trading. Crude oil settled at $22.93 per barrel, up 46 cents, at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The dollar closed higher after major central banks stepped into the European markets to prop up the ailing U.S. currency again, worried that a further collapse would hurt the U.S. economy and disturb world trade. The dollar ended at 1.4545 German marks, compared with 1.4475 marks Monday.
Bond prices barely budged in lackluster trading. The price of the Treasury's bellwether 30-year bond was unchanged and its yield held at 7.96 percent from late Monday.
Among individual issues, Boeing dragged down the Dow with a loss of 3 1/8 to 48 1/4. British Airways said it would defer putting into service five Boeing 767 planes it will get this year, and Quantas Airways said it would postpone delivery of as much as $1.9 billion of new Boeing jets.
Silicon Graphics Software bucked the downward trend by jumping 3 5/8 to 41 1/4. The stock rose on a published report that Compaq Computer has approached the workstation maker to discuss a possible merger, traders said. Compaq rose 5/8 to 73 1/8.
Boatmen's Bancshares climbed 3 1/4 to 38 7/8 on news that it will become a component of the Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks, replacing Carter Hawley Hale Stores, which filed for bankruptcy Monday.
UAL Corp. dropped 4 to 135 1/4, Delta lost 3 1/2 to 72, and AMR fell 1 1/2 to 58 1/2 on new concerns over the plight of the airlines amid the U.S. consumer retrenchment and security concerns tied to the gulf war.
Motorola tumbled 2 to 57 1/4. The chairman of its executive committee sold a block of 550,000 shares, although the company emphasized that this sale was tied to estate planning for the 68-year-old officer.
Among broad stock indexes, secondary measures fell less than blue-chip averages. The Standard & Poor's 500 closed down 3.08 at 365.50 and the NYSE composite finished off 1.42 at 199.43. The American Stock Exchange index dipped 0.45 to 340.65, and the Nasdaq composite edged down 0.12 to 443.98.