THE assault on 6,000 by the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has revived the debate over whether too much attention is paid to a fickle stock market measure. Without IBM's sharp rebound from the depths of July and Saddam Hussein's talent for boosting oil prices (and oil company stocks such as Texaco and Exxon), the Dow might be 260 points short of 6,000, instead of 110 points. For those seeking truth in measuring the stock market and the economy, that type of sway by a single company, or a handful, is not acceptable. Some critics consider the Dow not very representative of today's technology and consumer-services sectors. 'It seems a growing number of market participants are disenchanted with the DJIA, arguing the industrial age is history and, thus, the average itself is irrelevant,' Gregory Nie, technical analyst at Everen Securities in Chicago, wrote in a recent report. However, Mr Nie stands by the Dow as an important benchmark of stock market activity. 'The overwhelming majority of economists believe that two-thirds of US economic activity is tied to the consumer,' Mr Nie said. 'Roughly two-thirds of the DJIA components have visible ties to the consumer.' He also argued an increasingly global marketplace might be better reflected by the Dow's multinational presence. There are also complaints that the Dow's 30 stocks cannot possibly be as representative of the economy as a broader index such as the Standard and Poor's list of 500 large companies. Steven Adler, president of the ASM Fund, a mutual fund indexed to the Dow, defends it as indicative of both the economy and common investment strategy. 'When money managers learn their craft, they learn that you can become inefficiently invested by having too many stocks,' said Mr Adler. On Friday, the Dow closed up 20.72 points at 5,888.46, less than a point from Monday's record close of 5,889.20. It gained 49.94 points for the week.