Stocks little changed as Dow slips 1.78


NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed little changed yesterday as a rally in oil companies offset declines among computer shares.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.78, to 3,661.47, bringing the loss for the week to 12.79. Gains in Chevron Corp. and United Technologies Corp. were offset by losses in Aluminum Co. of America and International Business Machines Corp.

IBM and other computer stocks fell after Digital Equipment Corp. reported a wider-than-expected fiscal third-quarter loss.

"Technology continues to be a problem area for the market," since such stocks have "always been associated with market leadership in rallies," said Joseph DeMarco, managing director for equity trading at HSBC Asset Management, a unit of Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 0.20, to 446.18. Computer, electrical equipment, drug, retail and household product stocks were the hardest hit.

The Nasdaq combined composite index gained 0.66, to 727.97, and the Russell 2000 index of small stocks rose 0.07, to 250.15.

Almost nine stocks fell for every eight that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume was 309 million shares.

Stocks opened higher when interest rates fell from overnight highs, responding to a Federal Reserve report showing factory use increased less than expected. Rates rose earlier after the New York Times reported that the Fed is leaning toward raising rates again.

Shares also got a boost from yesterday's simultaneous expiration of options on stocks and stock indexes.

Digital Equipment plunged $6, to $22.875, after saying its net loss widened to $1.34 a share, from 23 cents last year.

Digital's earnings hurt other computer and technology stocks, with Apple Computer Inc. dropping $1.25, to $30.25, and Applied Materials Inc. falling 75 cents, to $41.25.

Oil issues surged as West Texas Intermediate crude oil climbed 35 cents a barrel, to $16.58, the highest since Nov. 24, amid rising demand, smaller supplies and shrinking inventories.

Chevron Corp. climbed $2.625, to $91; Texaco Inc. rose 87.5 cents, to $64.625; Exxon Corp. added 25 cents, to $63.125; Amoco Corp. advanced $1.375, to $57.375; and Mobil Corp. gained $1.40625, to $78.875. British Petroleum PLC American depositary receipts, each representing 12 common shares, soared $2.25, to $69.125.

U.S. bonds pared almost all of a 5/8 -point overnight loss, and yields on the government's benchmark 30-year bond were unchanged at 7.28percent, down from an overnight high of 7.34 percent, after a manufacturing report suggested a surge in inflation isn't imminent.

The Federal Reserve said U.S. capacity utilization rose to 83.6 percent in March from 83.4 percent in February, less than economists' forecast of 83.7 percent.

The Fed also said industrial production rose 0.5 percent in March, less than the forecast of 0.6 percent.

Intel, Cisco Systems Inc., Digital Equipment Corp., Long Island Bancorp Inc. and U.S. Healthcare Inc. were the most active stocks in composite trading.

United Technologies Corp. jumped $1.125, to $65.875. The maker of jet engines, helicopters and air-conditioning equipment was added to the recommended-for-purchase list at Goldman, Sachs & Co. by analyst Howard Rubel.

Alex Brown Inc. rose 75 cents, to $25.125. The Baltimore-based securities firm earned $1.46 a share in the first quarter, up from $1.28 last year.

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