NEW YORK, NOV. 3 -- A wave of selling swept over Wall Street today despite coordinated efforts overseas to lower interest rates. The selling sent the Dow Jones industrial average to its lowest level since the collapse of Oct. 19.
Analysts said that the market had been expecting the rate reductions and that investors focused more on negative economic factors, such as today's disappointing November sales reports from the nation's largest general retailers.
The Dow average of 30 industrials, which gained nearly 16 points in the previous two sessions, tumbled 72.44 to 1776.53, a 3.92 percent decline and the ninth biggest point loss.
The drop left the blue-chip measure at its lowest point since it plunged 508 points, to 1738.41, on Black Monday.
The broader market also suffered huge losses. About five stocks fell in value for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.
As measured by Wilshire Associates 500 Equity Index, stocks lost $70.66 billion in value.
Volume on the Big Board came to 204.16 million shares, up sharply from the 148.89 million shares that changed hands Wednesday.
Stock prices were sharply lower for most of the session but suffered the biggest losses in the final few minutes. Computerized program trades were largely responsible for the late selloff, traders said.
The market failed to strengthen after West Germany's central bank slashed a key interest rate to boost its economy and several other European countries followed suit, even though the market had stabilized because of that possibility the previous two sessions.
"Everyone was waiting for these worldwide interest rate cuts, and now that it's an accomplished fact the market doesn't give a darn," said Michael Metz, a technical analyst for Oppenheimer & Co.
Hugh Johnson, a senior vice president and stock analyst at First Albany Corp., said that while there was no clear-cut reason for today's selloff, some investors were disappointed that the dollar didn't rally more.
"It suggests, unfortunately, that the dollar may have to go lower," said Johnson. "And if the dollar goes lower, that raises all sorts of nerve-wracking possibilities, not the least of which is perhaps higher inflation."
Peter Vandenberg, a vice president and trader for Shearson Lehman Bros. Inc., said the market was hurt by the disappointing retail sales figures for November and by traditional year-end tax-related selling.
"There's really nothing to get people in the marketplace right now," he said.
Wal-Mart was down 2 1/4 to 21, while the Limited slipped 1 1/8 to 16 1/2. Both retailers reported soft sales for last month.
E.F. Hutton was up 1/2 to 27 7/8. The company agreed to be acquired by Shearson Lehman Bros. in a deal valued at about $1 billion.