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NEW YORK (AP) _ Investors shopped selectively on Wall Street Thursday, mildly encouraged that companies including IBM and Ford are cutting costs but still wary about bidding stocks higher following a big rally earlier in the week.

The market was mixed in lackluster trading that contrasted to the advance that allowed the tech sector to claim its first three-day advance since early April and saw the Dow Jones industrials jump 358 points over Monday and Tuesday. Analysts said some profit taking contributed to the quiet mood.

``Sentiment is still rather wishy-washy or negative regarding the stock market,'' said Brian Belski, fundamental market strategist for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

In late afternoon trading, the Dow was up 37.99, or 0.4 percent, at 10,281.67.

The broader market was narrowly mixed. The Nasdaq composite index fell 3.89, or 0.2 percent, to 1,721.67 after climbing 124.71 in the previous three sessions.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index advanced 5.68, or 0.5 percent, to 1,096.75.

Analysts were reluctant to predict how long the market might be able to hold its gains from this week. Much of the buying has been based on lower prices following nearly two months of selling as companies released tepid earnings results and offered murky outlooks. By last week, the market's indexes had tumbled to levels not seen since early October.

``The market in general was so negative for so long. ... The market is one of fits and starts. We are at, or at least near, the bottom of the trading range,'' Belski said.

Among Wednesday's gainers, Dow industrial IBM rose 93 cents to $85.43, the day after CEO Samuel Palmisano said at an analysts meeting the company would cut costs but declined to comment about possible layoffs.

Ford advanced 8 cents to $17.72 after saying at a meeting with analysts Wednesday it is focusing on cost cutting and plans to be profitable this year.

Retailer AnnTaylor gained 16 cents to $48.90 after raising its outlook for 2002.

As for the losers, ImClone Systems fell $1.76 at $13.29 after the biotech company posted a profit loss that was 7 cents bigger than analysts' estimates.

Dell Computer slipped 4 cents to $27.66 ahead of its earnings results due later in the day.

The market's advance was limited by a disappointing report from the Commerce Department, which said housing construction fell by 5.4 percent in April, the second straight monthly decline.

Analysts are doubtful the market will be able find a steady upward path until the preponderance of economic reports are positive.

And, buying is likely to be concentrated among Wall Street's safer havens. Investors are likely to keep gravitating toward blue chips where earnings growth is easier to forecast, rather than into tech stocks.

Technology gains, analysts say, will be temporary as they will be attributable to post-selloff bargain hunting as has been the this week.

``Investors have been buying stocks of companies where earnings are dependable. The growth rate may be low, but the earnings are dependable. But that's what works in this market,'' said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany Corp.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers slightly more than 8 to 7 on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to 969.71 million shares, below the 1.11 billion traded at the same point Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index, the barometer of smaller company stocks, fell 5.85, or 1.1 percent, to 507.69.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished Thursday up 0.8 percent. In Europe, France's CAC-40 slipped 0.1 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.2 percent, and Germany's DAX index fell 0.5 percent.


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