Stock prices fell to a seven-week low today as the market absorbed news of stronger-than-expected retail sales figures for February.
Technology issues were a notable weak spot, responding to some earnings disappointments.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials fell 10.05 points to 1,261.70, its lowest close since it stood at 1,259.50 on Jan. 22.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange came to 101.67 million shares, against 92.84 million Tuesday.
Before the market opened, the Commerce Department reported a 1.4 percent jump in retail sales last month. The figure was well above most advance estimates, and significantly exceeded the revised gain of 0.5 percent in January.
Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said the increase was a positive portent for future growth in production and employment.
But the news drew a negative response from traders in the credit markets, who are fearful that persistent strength in the economy might intensify demand for credit and revive inflationary pressures.
Interest rates on short-term Treasury bills rose 5 to 15 basis points, or hundredths of a percentage point. Prices of long-term government bonds, which move in the opposite direction from interest rates, fell more than $5 for every $1,000 in face value.
Retailing stocks generally finished with mixed and small price changes.
On the trading floor, Phillips Petroleum was the most active NYSE-listed issue, up 5/8 to 49.
American Natural Resources was second, up 1 1/4 to 63 1/4. The company said it was discussing a merger in which stockholders would get $65 per share from Coastal Corp. Previously, Coastal had bid $60 per share.
Computervision was third, tumbling 9 3/8 to 23 7/8 after a delayed opening. The company, which is in the business of designing and selling automation systems for industry, said its revenue growth for the first quarter would fall short of expectations.
It estimated that it would come in at about the break-even point for the quarter.
Elsewhere among office-equipment and technology stocks, International Business Machines fell 1 7/8 to 130; Digital Equipment 1 5/8 to 99 5/8; Hewlett-Packard 1 5/8 to 33 5/8; Data General 2 5/8 to 45 5/8; Scientific-Atlanta 5/8 to 11 1/4, and Cullinet Software 1 3/4 to 26 5/8.
AT&T lost 1/2 to 21 3/8. The company said it has been discussing joint telecommunications ventures with Toshiba Corp. of Japan.
Carpenter Technology, which projected lower earnings for its fiscal year ending in June, lost 4 5/8 to 39 1/4.
Chrysler rose 1/2 to 34 5/8 on top of a 1 1/4-point gain Tuesday. Chairman Lee Iacocca told a group of Wall Streeters this week that the company would have a new line of subcompact cars, designed to compete with imports, in production before General Motors would reach the market with its Saturn line.
Among other auto issues, GM dropped 1 1/2 to 77 1/2; Ford Motor was down 3/4 at 43 5/8, and American Motors was unchanged at 3 5/8.
Declining issues outnumbered advances by more than 2 to 1 on the Big Board. The exchange's composite index fell 0.79 point to 103.24.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 124.17 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials slumped 1.80 to 199.03, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was down 1.47 at 178.19. The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market fell 3.21 to 278.21. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 222.28, down 1.74.