NEW YORK (AP) _ Corporate America increased its spending on advertising in gay-oriented publications by 16.2 percent this year, according to a study released Monday.

Companies such as AT&T, Saab, Absolut and Dial-A-Mattress are among the businesses that have expanded their marketing campaigns to target gays, the study by New York-based Mulryan-Nash found.

``The key thing here is that advertisers are starting to recognize that gays have a lot more disposable income than the average consumer,'' said David Mulryan, a partner in the agency, which specializes in gay advertising

The nationwide survey of 128 gay-oriented publications found that advertising spending rose to $61.6 million this year from $53 million last year.

Much of that spending, Mulryan noted, came from liquor companies and car dealerships. Both industries are among the small, but growing number of businesses that have tried to lure gay consumers, he said.

Car makers are the latest entry into the gay market. The first was Saab, which reached out to gays when it began to advertise in the alternative press in 1994. Saturn followed earlier this year, Mulryan said.

Other automakers might be forced to advertise in gay publications to keep up with their competitors, he said.

``We've already seen it happen in the liquor category,'' Mulryan said.

Ever since Absolut started running ads in the gay press in 1979, there has been a steady increase in ads from companies such as Tanqueray, Stoli and Skyy.

There also has been a continuing rise in ads from such mainstream companies as AT&T and, most recently, Dial-A-Mattress, Mulryan said.

The New York-based bedding company launched its campaign in October 1994, said marketing director Ronald Tiongson. He said 3 percent to 5 percent of the company's says are from gay customers.

Dial-A-Mattress began targets its gay consumers, with ads that feature the headline: ``Who you sleep with is your business. How you sleep is ours.''

Gay publications also picked up more ad sales from the entertainment industry, particularly for gay-oriented films and off-Broadway and Broadway shows.

But the two largest advertisers were gay clubs and bars, which accounted for about 30 percent in ad sales. The two were followed by classified ads, which made up about 12 percent of the business.

``Those three are still going to outnumber big businesses in the market,'' Mulryan said. ``There isn't a lot of clutter in this market _ y