Stock prices were driven sharply lower today by growing concerns on Wall Street over the possibility of weak holiday sales by the electronic games industry and other consumer goods producers.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 19 points to close at 1027.96.
Warner Communications Inc. caused the initial tremors Wednesday by announcing that its Atari division's fourth quarter profits would be much lower than projected. Then Mattel Inc. said today it expects a fourth quarter loss after a $28 million third quarter profit. Last year Mattel made $16.7 million in the fourth quarter on sales of $310.6 million.
The two announcements triggered heavy selling of stocks tied to video games. Warner, which fell 1 3/4 Wednesday to 51 7/8, opened late on a block of 2.5 million shares at 36, and ended at 35 1/8 for the day on trading of 6.1 million shares. It traded as low as 34 7/8 today.
Mattel did not open for trading today, but another games company, Coleco Industries Inc., fell 3 1/4 to 34 7/8, and Tandy Corp., Radio Shacks's parent, fell 6 to 50 1/2. Meanwhile, Toys 'R' Us fell 4 1/2 to 47, although the company announced that its video games business "continues to expand."
The video game news seemed to awaken a placid stock market, raising fears that the Christmas season may not provide the consumer spending boost that some analysts had hoped for to encourage a broad economic recovery.
"I feel the interest rate rally has about had it," said William LeFevre, vice president-investment strategy at Purcell, Graham & Co. Inc. "It looks like the advent of the economic recovery continues to be postponed. We knew that capital spending wouldn't do it and based on early indications it appears the consumer is also not spending."
Another analyst, Richard McCabe of Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., said his firm expects the market is "gradually stalling out." McCabe said the market could hit one more new high before a downturn of 10 percent to 15 percent on the Dow early in 1983.
Trading on the New York Stock Exchange totaled 90.32 million shares, down from 97.4 million yesterday. Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 106.98 million shares.
The major corporate issues which have led the market throughout its nearly four-month-old rally were generally losers today, as 1,118 NYSE stocks fell and 522 advanced. The average price per share fell by 39 cents.
American Telephone & Telegraph fell 1 3/8 to 59 5/8, and International Business Machines dropped 3/4 to 93 3/4. For the second consecutive day, airline stocks were also losers, although oil stocks generally advanced. Atlantic Richfield was up 2 3/8 to 42 1/4 and Standard Oil of Indiana rose 2 to 41 3/4.
American Home Products fell 2 7/8 to 42 5/8 after the announcement that a California woman had been hospitalized with cyanide poisoning linked to its Anacin III capsules.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials fell 1.87 points to 156.80, and S&P's 500 stock composite index was off 1.81 points at 140.00. The NYSE's composite index of all its listed common stocks was down .96 point to 80.77.
The American Stock Exchange index closed at 336.10, down 2.60 points, as volume rose to nearly 9.5 million shares from 8.6 million Wednesday. On the over-the-counter market, the NASDAQ composite index closed down 3.46 points at 237.24.