Stock sellers overwhelmed buyers in the final hour of trading yesterday after a seesaw struggle that eventually drove the Dow Jones industrial average down 57.61 points on near-record volume.
The Dow closed at 2355.09, bringing the average's two-day loss to 153.07 points, or 6.1 percent. The Dow lost 95.46 points Wednesday, the largest one-day point drop in history, as trade deficit and interest rate worries swamped the market.
At the close of trading yesterday, 263 million shares had changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the fourth-busiest session on record.
Declining issues outnumbered advances by nearly 5 to 1.
From its high on Aug. 25 of 2722.42, the Dow has now fallen 367.33 points, or 13.5 percent. It is the biggest market correction since 1984.
The Dow opened 15 points lower on selling by foreign investors but then moved higher, gaining 15 points by 12:30 p.m. After moving up and down most of the afternoon, the average took a sharp downward turn between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and closed down 57.61 points.
"All of a sudden, they just pulled the rug out from under the market," said Charles S. Comer, market analyst for Moseley Securities.
Comer questioned whether the five-year-old bull market was still intact. The market's recent declines, he said, "represent the strongest challenge yet to the overall viability of the bull market," and he said that it would take "extensive work" to restore stock prices to their earlier levels.
The stock and bond markets, meanwhile, appeared to shake off the move by Chemical Bank of New York to raise its prime rate to 9.75 percent from 9.25 percent. Chemical's move was not immediately followed by any other bank.
The prime is the rate charged to a bank's best corporate customers and is used as a benchmark for the setting of rates on a variety of corporate and consumer loans.
Market observers said the stock and bond markets sold off sharply after the Chemical Bank announcement. However, prices in both markets soon moved back up.
The analysts were divided on whether the Federal Reserve is likely soon to boost the discount rate to 6.5 percent from the current 6 percent.
The discount rate is that charged by the Fed on loans to member banks. Changes in the rate are considered by some observers to portend the direction of Fed monetary policy.
Newton Zinder, an analyst for E.F. Hutton & Co. Inc., said the heavy trading volume was created by "bargain hunters on one side and people who wanted to get out on any rally."
He said the market "is groping for a temporary low. There's still a lot of uncertainty about the direction of interest rates and the direction of Fed policy in reaction to the trade numbers."
Monte Gordon, research director of Dreyfus Corp., said he viewed yesterday's selloff as bringing the market "very close to the bottom." He acknowledged that the Dow has fallen below his predicted level of 2400 and that it might move lower, but said the selloff was nearing its climax.
Once again, as on Wednesday, computerized trading programs linked to stock indexes caused heavy selling. Program trading is triggered by changes in the relative prices of stocks and stock indexes.
The bond market ended the day in a relatively stable condition, declining slightly as interest rates on a key 30-year Treasury bond rose to 10.22 percent from 10.16 percent.
Bonds remain in a downtrend, said William B. Budd, head of fixed-income investments for Favia Hill & Associates.
"You can't fight a downtrend," said Budd.
The bond market, he added, would "continue to be plagued" by its link to the strength or weakness of the dollar in international trading.
Wednesday's trade deficit figures, which were higher than traders expected, sent the dollar down sharply as investors feared that higher interest rates would be required to defend the dollar.
That, in turn, prompted selling in the bond market, where higher rates result in lower values for bonds.
In market action, losers included Du Pont, down 7 1/4 to 103 1/2; International Business Machines, down 5 1/8 to 140 1/8; Philip Morris, down 4 7/8 to 105 3/4; Eastman Kodak, down 5 to 93, and General Electric, down 3 1/4 to 53 3/4.
Auto stocks were hit again. Ford fell 5 1/2 to 87; General Motors 2 1/8 to 70 7/8, and Chrysler 2 to 34.
The broad market averages fell sharply. The NYSE composite index lost 3.81 to 167.45.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials fell 9.12 to 343.58, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was down 7.15 at 298.08.
The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market dropped 5.77 to 422.51.
At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 335.80, down 4.92.