* Against that background, the stock market...


* Against that background, the stock market managed a halting advance in the past week. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials closed Friday at 3,245.97, up 20.57 points from the week before.

The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market rose 1.33 to 636.28, while the American Stock Exchange market value index was down 1.14 at 414.27.

* The government said retail sales improved in January, and the nation's automakers reported sales for all North American-made cars and truck rose sharply. Up 23.6 percent, they were said to reflect horrid sales a year ago and fleet-buying by rental companies and the like.

The unemployment line also got a little shorter.

* Precious metals retreated on New York's Commodity Exchange.

February gold slipped to $353.70 a troy ounce from $355; March silver dipped to $4.158 a troy ounce from $4.192.

* Energy futures retreated on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Crude oil for March delivery fell to $19.46 a barrel from $19.87; March heating oil slid to 54.49 cents a gallon from 56.42 cents.

* The dollar closed higher Friday after first falling on two negative economic reports.

The dollar fell after the government reported industrial production slipped 0.9 percent in January and producer prices fell 0.3 percent last month, another larger-than-expected decline.

The market's surprise soon wore off and focused on Thursday's report of a healthy gain in retail sales last month.

* Oat futures edged higher but other grain and soybean futures retreated on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Wheat for delivery in March settled Friday at $4.27 a bushel, down from $4.52 1/2 a week earlier.

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