NEW YORK — Stocks drifted in light trading to close mixed Thursday after trade figures for March failed to stir either the bears or the bulls.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks closed down 4.19 at 2,325.49.
But other indicators rose fractionally. The Big Board's composite index was up 0.06 to 165.76. The American Stock Exchange's market-value index climbed 0.35 to close at 336.93; NASDAQ's composite index closed at 422.65, up 0.74. Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 0.38 to 342.46, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 0.26 to 294.24.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 2,923.476 up 1.166.
Advancing issues and decliners were virtually even with 772 stocks up, 758 down and 442 unchanged on the New York Stock Exchange.
Big Board volume totaled 152.04 million shares, against 170.97 million in the previous session.
"It was a pretty dull day," summed up Robert Colby, an analyst with Smith Barney, Harris Upham.
The Commerce Department's announcement of the March trade figures had been nervously awaited but ended up having little effect on the market because the numbers were in line with expectations, analysts said. The government said the trade deficit narrowed to $13.6 billion in March from $15.1 billion in February.
"The markets are indecisive," said Hugh Johnson, a senior vice president at First Albany Corp. "People are still on the edge of their chairs and waiting for the next move, with a lot of focus and concentration on the dollar."
Some excitement grew out of speculation that General Mills and Allegis were possible targets of takeover attempts. Stocks of those companies and of RJR Nabisco--rumored to be a possible suitor for General Mills--rose sharply, and all three were on the NYSE's most active list.
Allegis rose 1 7/8 to 71 1/2, General Mills picked up 3 1/8 to close at 54 1/8 and RJR Nabisco rose 2 to 51 1/8.
While the market generally was stagnant, Smith Barney's Colby found an underlying firmness because it did not drop Thursday in the face of rising commodity prices.
On Monday, stocks gave up their large gains after commodity prices soared, but on Thursday, while many commodity prices were higher, "the market seems to have taken that pretty well in stride," he said.
In the bond market, meanwhile, prices slipped as concerns about inflation and the falling dollar continued to depress the credit markets. Analysts said the narrowing of the trade deficit was insufficient to dispel the gloom.
The Treasury's 30-year issue fell point, or about $2.50 per $1,000 face amount, while its yield rose to 8.73% from 8.71% Wednesday.
The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, traded at 6.75%, up from 6.675% Wednesday.
Corporate bond prices were little changed, while tax-exempt bond prices slipped.
In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments fell 2/32 point, intermediate maturities declined by between 3/32 point and 10/32 point and 20-year maturities fell 10/32 point.