NEW YORK — The stock market drifted aimlessly through a slow Christmas Eve session Thursday, finishing with mostly small and mixed price changes.
The Dow Jones index of 30 industrials dropped 5.97 to 1,999.67, reducing its gain for the week to 24.37 points. Advancing issues slightly outnumbered decliners on the New York Stock Exchange.
Big Board volume came to 108.80 million shares, down from 203.11 million Wednesday and the lightest total since 86.36 million were traded on Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving.
The volume figure Thursday would have been a good deal lower had it not been for large blocks in several utility stocks traded by professionals in strategies keyed to the companies' impending quarterly dividends.
The day began quietly, and activity slowed to a trickle as the session passed and many investors got an early start on the long holiday weekend.
Analysts said the market's rally since early December, which produced its first sustained advance since the October crash, had lifted investors' spirits. But they also said doubts persisted about how long it could continue.
Prices rose Wednesday in response to a statement by leading industrialized nations that the dollar need not fall much more.
However, some observers questioned whether the communique represented any new substantial progress toward resolving international trade imbalances.
The statement "reaffirms policy-makers' commitments to achieving exchange rate stability," said Henry Kaufman at Salomon Bros. in a commentary published Thursday.
"But the communique proposed no new policy initiatives to realize that objective."
The high-yielding utilities that dominated the active list included Southern California Edison, off 1/8 at 31 1/8; Northern States Power, unchanged at 29 5/8; Rochester Gas & Electric, unchanged at 15, and Montana Power, up 5/8 at 31 7/8. Turnover in those four issues exceeded 27 million shares, about one-fourth of the day's total.