NEW YORK — The stock market settled for a mixed showing Monday in a subdued atmosphere following Friday's "triple witching hour."
Trading set its slowest pace in more than two months.
The Dow Jones index of 30 industrials dropped 6.49 to 2,479.89, while some other prominent market indicators eked out small gains.
Declining issues slightly outnumbered advances in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks.
Volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 130.72 million shares, down from 244.51 million Friday and the lightest total since a 128.54 million-share day on April 17.
The market held steady on Friday amid a barrage of activity by traders completing computer-program strategies involving a group of expiring stock index options and futures.
Analysts noted that these quarterly witching hours often are followed by at least a brief letdown in stock prices and trading volume.
In addition, brokers cited lingering uncertainty over the next likely turn in the Federal Reserve's credit policy. The stream of economic data that Wall Streeters watch along with the Fed runs dry for the next couple of days.
NWA climbed 6 1/2 to 114 1/8 after a delayed opening. An investor group led by Alfred Checchi of Los Angeles announced an agreement to acquire NWA for $121 a share, apparently ending a bidding war among several parties.
The action in NWA stock helped most other airline issues gain altitude as well. UAL rose 6 1/2 to 128 1/2 and Delta Air Lines was up 1 1/8 at 68 1/8.
Defying the broader market, First Interstate's common and Class A shares closed sharply higher in heavy trading on a report in Sunday's edition of the Los Angeles Times mentioning the bank holding company's takeover potential.
First Interstate's Class A closed up 1/8 at 1 1/8, while its common shares ended at 67 5/8 up 2 3/4. Time Inc. fell 5 5/8 to 156 7/8, while Warner Communications rose 3/8 to 59 5/8 as the most active NYSE issue. On Friday, Time began a $70-a-share offer for Warner after Paramount Communications disrupted plans for a Time-Warner merger with a hostile bid for Time.
Paramount shares gained 2 3/8 to 60 1/2.
Sea Containers Ltd. jumped 6 7/8 to 72 1/2. The company, which is fighting a $50-a-share takeover bid by the European concerns Tiphook and Stena, said it was working on a plan for a buyout or restructuring.
Federal National Mortgage, which said the interest-rate spread that helps determine its profitability continued to improve in May, rose 4 to 88 7/8.
The Tokyo stock market, plagued by currency and interest-rate worries, fell in light trading as the dollar edged upward. The key Nikkei 225-share index lost 41.99 points to close at 33,013.18.
In London, share prices closed higher as a steady performance by the British currency helped the market shrug off the slump in support for the governing Conservative Party that was revealed in the European election results. The Financial Times 100-share index closed 10.8 points higher at 2,154.7.
Most corn futures prices climbed the permitted daily limit of 10 cents a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade as an expected heat wave that is reigniting drought fears moved into the Corn Belt.
Other grain and soybean futures prices also rose.
On other markets, livestock and meat futures rallied strongly; precious metals gained, and energy futures were mostly higher.
On the Board of Trade, corn settled 8.75 to 10 cents higher, with the contract for delivery in July at $2.7225 a bushel; wheat was 1 cent to 3 cents higher, with July at $3.965 a bushel; oats were 6.75 to 7 cents higher, with July at $1.7125 a bushel, and soybeans were 14.25 to 18 cents higher, with July at $7.485 a bushel.
Forecasts for an extended period of hot, dry weather in the Midwest were reinforced after the close of trading by a new 6-to-10-day outlook from the National Weather Service, which predicted above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall for the region from Sunday through June 29.
Gains in the wheat market were limited by selling linked to the advancing winter wheat harvest.
Live cattle led livestock and meat futures higher on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in reaction to Friday's USDA monthly cattle-on-feed report, which showed a lower-than-expected number of cattle placed on feedlots in May to be fattened for slaughter in the seven largest producer states.
Cattle placed on feedlots in May will reach slaughter weights by fall.
Pork futures prices rose in sympathy with the cattle market, analysts said.
Near-month deliveries of crude oil and refined products rose sharply on the New York Mercantile Exchange on buying linked to the expiration next week of the July gasoline and heating-oil contracts. Analysts said there were few new supply-and-demand developments.