MOSCOW, OCT. 22 -- U.S. and Soviet negotiators made "good progress" toward wrapping up a medium- and shorter-range nuclear missile treaty here today and learned that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will place a high priority on seeking ways to conclude an early strategic arms accord when he meets Friday with Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

The focus on completing an intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, which is the key to a possible trip by Gorbachev to the United States, was expected during Shultz's two-day visit here. But the Soviet emphasis on achieving a treaty that would cut strategic nuclear arsenals in half came as something of a surprise and led to speculation in the U.S. delegation that Gorbachev may unveil a new position in an attempt to break the negotiating deadlock.

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze informed the U.S. team in a luncheon toast that the strategic arms issue is number one on Gorbachev's agenda for his meeting with Shultz, according to a senior State Department official. For this reason, lower-level discussions on strategic arms today appeared to be marking time until Gorbachev sees Shultz.

Chief U.S. arms negotiator Max Kampelman said tonight that "INF obviously has the attention but we're dealing very much with START {a strategic arms reduction pact}. We're looking at a treaty by the spring."

Shultz, who arrived by special overnight train from Helsinki because Moscow's airports were closed by dense fog, spent most of the day and part of the evening closeted with Shevardnadze and a very small group of officials.

The negotiators included national security affairs adviser Frank Carlucci and Assistant Secretary of State Rozanne Ridgeway for the United States and deputy foreign ministers Yuli Vorontsov and Alexander Bessmertnykh for the Soviet Union. The talks were scheduled to end Friday.

Dozens of other members of the two delegations paired off to discuss specific subjects such as INF, strategic arms, conventional arms, chemical weapons, nuclear testing, regional issues, human rights and bilateral questions.

The two ministers were holding a special session tonight on such regional issues as the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, the Middle East peace process, Cambodia and Korea.

The meetings were "businesslike and serious . . . constructive and problem-solving . . . {and} made good progress," said State Department spokesman Charles Redman.

But Redman declined to predict whether the big item of business, the INF treaty, will be completed in its elaborate detail to the two sides' satisfaction before the talks end. For this reason, he said it is "a little premature" to discuss the prospects for a summit meeting of Gorbachev and President Reagan later this year to sign the INF pact.

A U.S. official said the once-contentious issue of the West German Pershing IA missiles with their U.S. nuclear warheads appears once again to be "basically resolved." The two sides had agreed on a settlement of the issue when Shevardnadze visited Washington in mid-September, but some aspects were reopened by the Soviets later in Geneva.

Remaining questions involve verification, including the nature and limits of on-site inspection, and the phasing and timing of cutbacks in medium-range and shorter-range missiles, the official said.

"The details are not worked out. It is premature to say where this will end up" when the talks are over, the official said.

The Soviet side, especially, was glowing with official optimism about the outcome of the two days of meetings.

"We have all the possibilities of achieving success if our experts do not fail us," said Shevardnadze in his luncheon toast to Shultz at the restored 19th century Foreign Ministry villa where the main talks were held.

The hastily arranged special train for the Shultz party consisted of five first-class Finnish national railroad sleepers and a baggage car. At the Finnish-Soviet border, a Soviet dining car and a sleeper full of Soviet security officers were attached to the train, which arrived early this morning after a 14-hour overnight journey from Helsinki.

Shultz praised Finnish and Soviet cooperation, and the enterprise of his transportation staff, for arranging the train on short notice. Asked who would pay for the unusual trip, Shultz said he did not know but it would not be the State Department. Referring to the recent round of congressional budget cuts, Shultz said, "We're broke."