Stock Prices Scratch out Small Gain

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NEW YORK (AP) - Stock prices eked out a small gain Wednesday, recovering a little from the earnings shocks that drove the market sharply lower the day before.

The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down 62.13 points on Tuesday, rose 4.21 to 2,872.03.

Advancing issues outnumbered declines by about 5 to 4 in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, with 850 up, 671 down and 514 unchanged.

Volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 196.81 million shares, up from 177.07 million in the previous session. Nationwide, consolidated volume in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 236.81 million shares.

In the wake of a surprisingly negative earnings projection from International Business Machines, analysts said investors were beginning to look ahead uneasily to the first-quarter profit reports due out in a few weeks.

Corporate profits have been in a slump for about two years, having turned weak long before the onset of the recession.

Hopes have been stirring lately that earnings would soon start to perk up, aided by businesses' cost-cutting efforts and the first stages of economic recovery.

But IBM's statement Tuesday that its first-quarter profits would be only about half what some analysts had been estimating prompted investors to reexamine those expectations, or at least the timetable on which they had been basing them.

IBM shares, down 12 3/4 Tuesday, dropped another 1 to 114 1/8 in active trading Wednesday. …