NEW YORK — The stock market staged a moderate advance in quiet trading Monday as investors studied new evidence of a slowing economy.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials climbed 5.97 to 1,272.75.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 89.90 million shares, down from 101.35 million Friday.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 106.90 million shares.
A survey of corporate purchasing executives found several signs that the economy set a slower pace in March and the Commerce Department reported Monday that new factory orders dropped 0.2% in February.
While recent data posed uncertainties for the corporate earnings outlook, analysts said, they could also be read as a positive portent for interest rates.
Utility Stocks Gain
Dow Jones' index of 15 utilities, a stock group that is often highly sensitive to changing interest-rate expectations, rose 1.12 to 154.13, continuing to hit the highest peaks since the mid-1960s.
Noting that the utility average is creeping closer to its record high of 163.32 reached April 20, 1965, William LeFevre, an analyst at Purcell, Graham & Co., said: "Frequently, the Dow utilities peak or bottom ahead of the general market.
"We think the utilities are telling us that the rest of the market is about to follow this interest-sensitive index up."
On the Big Board's most active list, Hospital Corp. of America led with a volume of more than 1.6 million shares. HCA, which announced over the weekend that it will merge with American Hospital Supply Corp., fell 2 5/8 to 43 7/8. American Hospital Supply dropped 3 to 34.
Among other hospital-management issues, Humana lost 1/8 to 29 3/8, American Medical International rose 5/8 to 25 7/8 and National Medical Enterprises was unchanged at 28.
Computervision tumbled 1 1/2 to 17 1/2. The company said it expects to post a loss for the first quarter because of a "continuing sluggish market," among other factors.
Blue Chips Advance
Blue chips contributing to the Dow Jones industrials' gain included International Business Machines, up 1 1/8 at 128 1/8; Eastman Kodak, up 5/8 at 69 1/8, and General Motors, up 3/4 at 73 3/4.
In the daily tally on the Big Board, about five issues rose in price for every four that gave ground. The exchange's composite index of more than 1,500 common stocks added 0.30 to 104.90.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 1,864.729, up 4.963.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 0.58 to 202.25, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 0.61 at 181.27.
The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market gained 0.56 to 118.04.
At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index closed at 229.53, down 0.06.
Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 1,806, compared to 2,057 on Friday.
Bond Prices Mixed
Bond prices were narrowly mixed in quiet trading, as were short-term interest rates.
Meanwhile, the Treasury said yields on newly issued bills fell for the second straight week at its auctions Monday.
The government sold $6.6 billion in three-month bills at an average discount rate of 8.18%, down from 8.41% last week. Another $6.6 billion was sold in six-month bills at an average rate of 8.55%, down from 8.86%, the Treasury said.
In the secondary market, yields on three-month Treasury bills fell 5 basis points to 8.11%. Six-month bills were unchanged at 8.55%, and one-year bills were up 2 basis points at 8.76%. A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
Yields on 30-year Treasury bonds inched up to 11.65% from 11.64% late Friday.