NEW YORK — The stock market posted its fourth straight loss Monday with a moderate decline in the slowest trading in more than two months.
Some computer and technology issues bucked the downtrend.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, down 29.70 points last week, lost another 1.11 to 1,268.55.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 84.11 million shares, down from 96.39 million Friday and the smallest total since 77.48 million changed hands Jan. 4.
Interest Rates Cited
An upswing in interest rates of late has been cited as the major reason for the market's skittishness. Even when rates fell back sharply Friday, stocks were unable to mount a rally.
Analysts say confidence in the prospective strength and durability of the economic expansion seems to have faltered a bit in the past few weeks.
"There appears to have been a recent increase of skittishness, pessimism, whatever, amongst the professionals in Wall Street," said William LeFevre, an analyst at Purcell, Graham & Co.
"Much time is being spent currently trying to decide whether this market has topped out. We think this is a positive development. A few weeks ago there were just too many bulls."
Fresh evidence of the pace of economic activity is due later this week with reports on retail sales and industrial production for February. The brokerage firm of Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co. estimates that the figures for both will show gains similar to the relatively healthy advances recorded in January.
However, some analysts said the figures could show evidence of slowing growth, which, in turn, might allow interest rates to fall again.
Technology Stocks Gain
J. M. Tull Industries jumped 6 to 19 1/2. Inland Steel made a bid to take over the company for $19 a share. Inland Steel shares gave up 1 to close at 22 7/8.
Office-equipment and technology issues recording gains included International Business Machines, up 1 7/8 at 131 1/2, rebounding from a 6-point drop last week; Digital Equipment, up 1 1/8 at 105 7/8; Teledyne, up 2 7/8 at 262 1/8, and Hewlett-Packard, up 1/2 at 35 7/8. But Data General fell 1 3/8 to 49.
West Point-Pepperell, which came in with sharply lower earnings for the fiscal quarter ended Feb. 23, fell 2 to 38.
Phillips Petroleum led the active list, down 1 at 48 1/8 in trading that included several large blocks.
In the daily count on the Big Board, declining issues outnumbered advances by more than three to two.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 109.65 million shares.
Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 1,450, compared to 1,870 on Friday.
Bond prices were narrowly mixed as short-term interest rates edged lower.
Treasury Bonds Fall
Prices of Treasury bonds fell, but those of corporate and municipal issues showed little change.
In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments slipped 2/32 point, intermediate maturities fell 9/32 point and long-term issues were off 7/32 point, according to the investment firm of Salomon Bros. Inc.
The movement of a full point is equivalent to a change of $10 in the price of a bond with a $1,000 face value.
In corporate trading, industrials and utilities edged down 1/8 point in light trading.
Among tax-exempt municipal bonds, general obligations and dollar bonds were little changed in light dealings, Salomon Bros. said.
Yields on three-month Treasury bills fell 10 basis points to 8.48%. Six-month bills fell 6 basis points to 8.80%, and one-year bills were down 3 basis points at 8.92%. A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
However, yields on 30-year Treasury bonds rose to 11.86% from 11.70% late Friday.
The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, traded at 8.313%, down from 8.438% late Friday.