Stock prices ratcheted back a bit today, making up for a fraction of the market's losses early in the week.

A gain of 71 points lifted the Dow Jones industrial average above the five-month low it hit on Tuesday but did not divert any of the indexes from their long term trend down.

The Dow closed at 7,775.60. The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index gained 7 points to close at 1,314.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index rose 8 points to 829.85.

Even Wall Street's most cheerful spin doctors did not make much of the day's modest gain, which coincided with what some analysts interpreted as a slight easing of Middle Eastern tensions.

At the United Nations, chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq is moving to disarm and in Paris, diplomats from France, Germany and Russia said they will "not allow" to United Nations to authorize military action against Iraq.

War worries continue to outweigh economic and investment issues, the Federal Reserve observed in its latest review of economic conditions around the nation, which was released today.

Economic activity "remained subdued" during the past two months, the Fed said. The increase of almost 60 percent in crude oil prices during the past year is not only cramping consumer confidence but also boosting the prices of raw materials for many businesses. Chemical manufacturers complained that they are being particularly hard hit by soaring prices for their basic feedstocks.

The closest the Fed came to an encouraging word was a report of "modest" growth by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, which serves the Washington region.

On Wall Street's own turf, business is not getting any better, the report said. Bonuses at securities firms--which is where Wall Streeters make most of their money--were down 20 to 30 percent from last year, the New York Fed reported, "and there is no indication of a pickup in hiring on the horizon."