NEW YORK, DEC. 4 -- Stock prices declined again today, and the Dow Jones industrial average edged closer to the depths of its historic fall on Oct. 19.

Traders said that while there was no specific reason for the latest slump, a general lack of buying interest prevailed over the market amid lingering doubts about the economy.

"The major investors and players are no longer there," said Larry Wachtel, a market strategist and first vice president at Prudential-Bache Securities Inc.

"The institutional investor has checked out, mutual funds are building up cash to meet redemptions and the smaller investor is nowhere to be seen," Wachtel said.

"I think the market is getting a lot more bearish" since the collapse, agreed John D. Connolly, a stock analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.

The Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks, which tumbled 72 points on Thursday, slipped 9.79 to 1766.74. That left the closely watched index at its lowest point since it plunged more than 500 points to 1738.41 on Black Monday.

In the broader market, about 11 stocks fell in value for every three that rose, on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1,297 down, 352 up and 343 unchanged.

As measured by Wilshire Associates 500 Equity Index, stocks lost $22.07 billion in value.

Big Board volume totaled 184.80 million shares, much lower than the 204.16 million in the previous session.

Prices got off to a shaky start from the opening bell following early declines in the dollar.

Blue chips rallied by late morning, but quickly lost ground as buying interest waned amid continuing uncertainty over key market factors such as the strength of the dollar and the economy.

The Dow industrial average remained sharply lower for most of the session until just before the close when some late buying based on technical factors allowed the market to cut some of its losses.

Analysts said the market was still reacting to Thursday's disappointing sales reports from leading retailers, and to worries about the government's attempts to cut the U.S. trade and budget deficits.

Market participants tended to ignore the Labor Department's report that unemployment fell by 0.1 percentage point to 5.9 percent in November.

"It's fear and greed that moves markets," said A.C. Moore, a market analyst for Argus Research. "Essentially there aren't the ingredients for any real greed."

Among active blue chips, International Business Machines rose 1 1/4 to 107 3/8; American Telephone and Telegraph was unchanged at 26; Eastman Kodak was down 1/4 to 44; and General Electric gained 1/8 to 40.

Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 217.07 million shares.

The NYSE's composite index fell 1.10 to 125.91.