NEW YORK — The stock market put together a mild rally Thursday, steadying after the spell of selling that set in before the Christmas holiday.
Analysts were reluctant to read much significance into the move, which came on the lightest volume in precisely one year.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down 23.85 points Monday and Tuesday, recovered 7.34 to 1,526.49.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 62.05 million shares, down from 78.30 million Tuesday and the smallest total since 46.70 million shares were traded on the day after Christmas 1984.
Analysts attributed the market's drop on Monday and Tuesday to special tax factors and a desire among some investors to cash in on the sharp gains of October and November.
The decline came on slackened trading volume, which had been widely expected with the arrival of the holidays.
Market watchers said they believed that activity would remain subdued in the last few sessions of 1985. But they also said the pullback early this week appeared to have attracted some buyers who had been awaiting an opportunity to get into the market at less than peak prices.
Union Carbide rose 1 3/8 to 72 3/8 and led the active list on turnover of more than 2.77 million shares. GAF Corp. increased the price tag on its hostile takeover bid for Union Carbide from $68 a share to $74 a share.
GAF shares gained 1/2 to 67.
Oil Issues Mixed
Oil-service and drilling stocks finished mixed, with Schlumberger up 3/4 at 35 5/8; Halliburton down 1/8 at 27, and Hughes Tool unchanged at 13.
In a ranking of the performance of 82 industry groups for the year through Dec. 24, Standard & Poor's Corp. said the worst showings were turned in by the offshore drilling group, down 37.7%, followed by crude oil producers, down 15.6%.
Most energy companies have seen their business hurt by weakness in world oil prices and related problems.
Rounding out the bottom five groups were communications equipment stocks, down 12.4%; agricultural machinery, down 10.5%, and miscellaneous metals, down 9.3%.
The top five among the year's gainers, according to S&P's reckoning, were textiles (apparel), up 86.2%; entertainment, up 86.1%; broadcast media, up 66.5%; specialty retailers, up 62.7%, and pollution control, up 61.1%.
In the daily tally on the Big Board, advances outnumbered declines by about four to three. Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 1,055, compared to 1,400 on Tuesday.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 76.44 million shares.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 2,129.575, up 4.178 from Tuesday.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 0.71 to 230.83, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 0.51 at 207.65.
The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market slipped 0.08 to 320.29. At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index closed at 242.90, up 0.41.
Bond Prices Gain
Bond prices rose slightly and interest rates backed off in light trading.
Many bond traders took an extended holiday. The market was closed Wednesday for Christmas and the Tuesday session was shortened.
Analysts said there was no economic news to account for the modest rise in bond prices Thursday. But they said hopes persist that the Federal Reserve Board will take action aimed at rejuvenating the lethargic economy.
Many economists say the central bank has already relaxed its monetary policy posture and will confirm the new stance by reducing the discount rate soon. The discount rate, the fee the Fed charges on loans to commercial banks and savings institutions, has stood at 7.5% since May.
In the secondary market for Treasury securities, prices of short-term governments moved up between 11/32 point and 13/32 point, intermediate maturities rose between 3/16 point and 5/16 point and long-term issues rose about 3/8 point, according to the investment firm of Salomon Bros.
The movement of a point is equivalent to a change of $10 in the price of a bond with a $1,000 face value.
The Merrill Lynch daily Treasury index, which measures price movements on all outstanding Treasury issues with maturities of a year or longer, edged up 0.18 from late Tuesday to 111.24. The Shearson Lehman daily Treasury bond index, which makes a similar measurement, rose 2.06 to 1,166.14.
Dollar Bonds Rise
In corporate trading, industrials and utilities were up point in light activity.
Among tax-exempt municipal bonds, dollar bonds rose 3/8 point in light dealings and general obligations were unchanged in light trading.
Yields on three-month Treasury bills declined four basis points to 7.02%. Six-month bills fell three basis points to 7.04% and one-year bills were down four basis points at 7.09% after the first few hours of trading.