Stocks closed slightly higher in moderate trading Friday, a very dull day highlighted by a slight rise in prices late in the session.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which lost 16.58 Thursday, added 3.46 to close at 2858.91.Among broader market gauges, the New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 0.34 to 201.13 and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index gained 0.90 to 367.48. The price of an average share added 6 cents.

Advances led declines 789-727 among the 2,018 issues crossing the NYSE tape. Big Board volume totaled 160,890,000 shares, down from 199, 830,000 traded Thursday.

"My, that certainly was dull, wasn't it?" said Don Hays, director of investment strategy at Wheat, First Securities Inc. in Richmond, Va., of Friday's session.

The bond market, which had been slightly lower most of the day, pushed into the plus column in late action and sparked some program buying of stocks.

Analysts had expected the stock market might try to stabilize around current levels, and Friday's session was, if nothing else, stable.

Hays said the market was really just marking time Friday, treading water while traders try to assess the outlook for the Federal Reserve and interest rates and for corporate earnings.

"We've had some disappointments on earnings. That unsettled the waters, but they appear to be calming down now," he said. "It looks so much like this is the end of the pullback. Somewhere in the next three, five or 10 days the market should start another very strong rally."

Hays said relative strength in the bond market helped stocks hold their own Friday: "The bond market has acted better the last two days, and we had more Dow stocks up than down by almost two to one today."

Among the 30 Dow industrial stocks, 15 advanced, 10 declined and five were unchanged.

"There was just not much going on," Hays noted. "People are trying to get a sense of direction as to whether the Fed is going to ease again soon and what's going to happen on the earnings front. It's like a tug of war."

On the trading floor, RJR Nabisco was the most active issue, up 1/4 to 12.

Manufacturers Hanover followed, unchanged at 24. IBM was third, down 3/8 to 1111/2.

Among other blue chips, AT&T fell 1/2 to 327/8, Philip Morris gained 1/2 to 691/2, General Electric was unchanged at 661/4 and Westinghouse eased 1/4 to 285/8.

Elsewhere, Landmark Land plunged 13/8 to 25/8. The company said federal regulators may seize its insolvent Oak Tree Savings Bank unit.

And Bankers Trust tumbled 11/4 to 417/8. The bank, reacting to the drop in the share price, said its foreign-exchange operations have been profitable in the first quarter. The money-center bank noted there have been rumors it has suffered foreign-exchange losses during the period.

Prices were mixed in moderate trading on the American Stock Exchange.

The Amex Market Value index lost 0.56 to 352.59. Advances led declines 274-246 among the 764 issues traded. The price of an average share was off 2 cents. Volume was 12,190,000 shares, down from 18,110,000 shares traded Thursday.

Amdahl led the Amex issues, down 1/4 to 141/2.

The National Association of Securities Dealers composite index lost 0.45 to 464.15.