NEW YORK — The stock market used a modest upturn Tuesday to score its first gain in five sessions. Trading remained sluggish.
Auto, retail, oil and financial issues paced the gainers, but several computer stocks retreated, notably Wang Laboratories.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, off more than 23 points over the past week, recovered 3.20 to close at 1.271.75. The Dow Jones transportation and utility averages also edged higher.
Advances outpaced declines eight to seven on the New York Stock Exchange, whose composite index rose 0.44 to 104.03.
Big Board volume swelled to 92.84 million shares from 84.11 million Monday, which was the lowest turnover in more than two months.
The market's recent slide, and the accompanying sluggish volume, reflect investors' confusion toward the outlook for the economy and the subsequent effect on stocks, analysts said.
There is speculation that the economy's expansion is beginning to slow, which might help reduce upward pressure on interest rates. But the same slowdown could crimp corporate earnings.
"I think it's kind of a very uncertain, ambiguous atmosphere," said Michael Metz, technical analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "I think a lot of traders are looking for a signal."
Later this week the government is scheduled to report on retail sales and industrial production for February.
There also are fears that, if the dollar's recent decline accelerates, foreign investors would increasingly withdraw from dollar-denominated investments, including equities.
The dollar rose in late, volatile U.S. trading Tuesday to rebound from share losses earlier in Europe.
Wang Labs' class B stock tumbled 3 3/8 to 20 3/4 and topped the American Stock Exchange's active list with 2.75 million shares changing hands. The computer maker said fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year earnings would trail year-earlier levels.
The news soured investors on several other computer makers as well. Digital Equipment dropped 4 5/8 to 101, Data General lost 3/4 to 48 and Computervision fell 1 to 33. International Business Machines rose 3/8 to 131 7/8, however.
Phillips Most Active
Phillips Petroleum topped the NYSE's active list and climbed to 48 3/8; a 600,000-share block traded at 47 1/2. Phillips, having just fought off a takeover effort, postponed its annual meeting by one month to May 29.
Chrysler jumped 1 to 34 1/8 in heavy trading after Chairman Lee Iacocca predicted that his company would beat General Motors to the market with a high-technology small car. GM rose 5/8 to 79 and Ford Motor gained 3/8 to 44 3/8.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 112.75 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 0.91 to 200.83, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 0.87 at 179.66.
At the Amex, the market-value index fell 1.45 to 224.02.
The NASDAW composite index for the over-the-counter market closed at 281.42, up 0.22.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 1,850.758, up 6.399.
Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 1,714, compared to 1,450 on Monday.
Bond prices were mixed as short-term interest rates edged higher.
In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments slipped 2/32 point, intermediate maturities rose 4/32 point and long-term issues gained 9/32 point, according to the investment firm of Salomon Bros. Inc.
The movement of a full point is equivalent to a change of $10 in the price of a bond with a $1,000 face value.