Last week was typical of many recent weeks in the fixed-income arena. Dealers looked for any reason to drive prices higher during the first part of the week. But then, when no retail buying developed or when some bad news for the market was released, bond prices declined.

Initially last week, dealers interpreted the delayed money supply numbers as bullish and further reasoned that the high interest rates would soon slow the recovery and help curtail inflation.

As if on cue, prices rose. But during the course of the week, the prime rate that banks charge their top customers for loans rose from 15 1/2 to 17 percent and bond prices fell.

The gamble many government dealers are taking is that the move to lower rates, just as happened in March, will occur again at any moment.

The dealers sit with their bonds and wait. Consequently there is little retail buying and no large selling by the dealers.

The markets are thin and volatile. But the question is, with the dealers paying 15 1/2 percent or higher to carry their inventory, how long can they afford to wait for a rally to begin?

We have been mentioning ways for bond buyers to deal with this treacherous market. We have had floating rate bonds and bonds with short maturities. A new tax-exempt known as "master lender notes" was marketed last week. Citibank of New York managed two issues that totaled $65 million.

These master lender notes are single-family housing revenue bonds consisting of serial bonds from 1984 through 1990 and a term maturity due in 1992. The 1992 maturity was priced to return 9.25 percent.

The Treasury also will offer a one-year bill on Wednesday in minimums of $10,000.

Outside of the Treasury financing on Tuesday, there will be little new issue activity during this holiday-shortened week.