The stock market took a sharp drop today in steady selling that left the Dow Jones industrial average at its lowest level in almost three months.
Brokers blamed an accumulation of energy worries, news of a large trade deficit last month, and a prominent analyst's shift to a more cautious view of the market outlook.
The Dow industrials fell 10.39 points to 822.16 the lowest close since the average stood at 815.75 on March 2. Twenty-seven of the 30 blue-chip issues that make up that widely recognized indicator posted losses.
Declines outnumbered advances by a 3-1 margin in the overall count at the New York Stock Exchange.
The biggest contributor to the Dow's loss was Du Pont, off 4 1/8 at 125 7/8. The company said it knew of no reason for the pressure on its stock.
F. W. Woolworth, another of the average's components, dropped 7/8 to 23 7/8 on top of a 2-point loss Tuesday, Brascan Ltd. has abandoned its effort to make a $35-a-share takeover offer for the company.
Analysts said concern over rising gasoline prices and uncertainty about fuel supplies continued to set the mood on Wall Street.
On top of that, the Wall Street Journal reported today that Barton Biggs, research director of Morgan Stanley & Co. and an influential market analyst, was advising investors to reduce their stock holdings a bit.
And during the day, the Commerce Department reported that the nation's trade deficit widened in April, with imports exceeding exports by close to $2.2 billion.
The market decline left the Dow near what chart-watching analysts consider an important "support level" at 820. Larry Wachtel of Bache Halsey Stuart Shields set this sets up a potentially pivotal session on Thursday.
Also on the market agenda Thursday is release the monthly index of leading economic indicators. The index, which is designed to signal the course of the economy, has declined in each of the past three months. Wachtel said the expected it to show a further substantial drop for April.
Volume on the Big Board remained moderate at 29.25 million shares against 27.04 million Tuesday.
The exchange's composite index fell 0.52 point to 56.01.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, came to 32.63 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials lost 1.12 points to 110.23, and S&P's 500-stock compostie index was down 0.94 point at 99.11.
One exception to the market's general weakness was Walter E. Heller International, up 5 3/8 at 23 1/4. The Chicago-based commercial finance company said it had been approached about a possible merger by another concern, which it didn't identify.
Amerada Hess, which has been strong of late, dropped back 2 5/8 to 38. Late in the day it was announced that the company's refining and marketing division had been ruled out of compliance with the Carter administration's price guidelines.
At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index fell 1.84 points to 185.65 after setting a record on Tuesday.
The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market closed at 131.39, off 1.07 points. CAPTION: Graph, The Market In Brief, May 30, The Washington Post