* Prominent pharmaceutical issues, by contrast, posted broad losses. Merck, a component of the Dow, fell 1 1/8 to 45 5/8; Glaxo Holdings, 1/2 to 26 7/8; Syntex, 3/4 to 26 7/8, and Eli Lilly, 1/8 to 65 5/8. Abbott Laboratories was unchanged at 29 1/4.
* An exception among health care stocks was U.S. Surgical, up 3 3/8 to 64 after falling 2 5/8 Wednesday.
* Continental Corp. tumbled 6 1/8 to 24. The insurance holding company, adding up its losses from Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki, said it planned to withdraw from the reinsurance business and recommended to directors that the quarterly dividend be cut from 65 cents a share to 25 cents.
* Stride Rite climbed 3/8 to 18. The company reported earnings for the fiscal third quarter ended Aug. 28 of 40 cents a share, up from 36 cents a year earlier.
* Compania Cervecerias traded at 12 5/8 on the NASDAQ after an initial public offering of American depositary shares of the Chilean brewing company at 12 1/2.
Platinum futures prices rose sharply as prospects dimmed for a weekend meeting between South African President F. W. de Klerk and black leader Nelson Mandela.
A Mandela-de Klerk summit is seen as crucial to reviving black-white talks on ending apartheid in South Africa, the world's largest platinum-producing country.
On other commodity markets, natural gas futures fell sharply, leading other energy futures lower; grains and soybeans advanced, and livestock and meat futures were mixed. Platinum for October delivery jumped $7.90 to $373.70 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
On New York's Commodity Exchange, gold for October delivery gained 60 cents to $349.20 an ounce, and December silver rose 1.2 cents to $3.837 an ounce.
November light, sweet crude oil fell 21 cents to $21.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Market Roundup, D6