NEW YORK — The stock market closed out its worst month of the year with a small decline in quiet trading Thursday.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials dropped 4.08 to 1,775.31, finishing July with a loss of 117.41 points.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange slowed to 112.66 million shares from 146.69 million on Wednesday.
The Dow's point decline in July was its biggest for a month since November, 1973, when it plunged 134.33 points as the country confronted the onset of the energy crisis and a recession that lasted into early 1975.
In Thursday's session, analysts said investors felt some relief over the government's quarterly borrowing plans announced after the close on Wednesday. The Treasury said it would auction $28 billion in bonds and notes next week.
There had been fears that the refunding would be even larger, posing the threat that interest rates might have to rise to create enough demand to absorb those new securities. But brokers also said uncertainty about prospects for economic growth continued to dampen enthusiasm for stocks. The Commerce Department reported that new factory orders declined 0.3% in June. Reports are due out today on the index of leading economic indicators for June and the employment situation for July.
Precious metals stocks were strong, responding to a recent rise in the price of gold.
Homestake Mining climbed 1 5/8 to 22 5/8, ASA Ltd. 1 1/8 to 31 3/4, Newmont Gold 1 to 10 7/8, Freeport McMoran Gold 7/8 to 9 7/8, Campbell Red Lake 1 1/8 to 17 1/8 and Dome Mines 1/2 to 5 3/8.
Owens-Corning Fiberglas jumped 4 5/8 to 61 1/2 on speculation that Santa Monica-based Wickes Cos. might be about to bid for the company. Wickes was the volume leader on the Amex, closing unchanged at 5 on volume of more than 1.7 million shares. Both companies declined to comment on the rumors.
Bethlehem Steel led the active list, down 3/8 at 6 5/8 after falling 2 on Wednesday, when the company said it expected to post a significant loss for 1986 and omitted dividends on its preferred stock.
Among other actively traded blue chips, International Business Machines rose to 132 1/2 but General Motors dropped to 68 1/8, Ford Motor 1 to 53 1/2 and American Telephone & Telegraph to 23 5/8.
Airline issues, which had been bucking the overall down trend lately, ran into some profit taking. UAL fell 1 to 52, AMR 1 to 51 1/2, Delta 1 to 42 and TWA 1/2 to 17.
In the overall tally on the Big Board, about five issues declined in price for every four that gained ground.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 134.74 million shares.