NEW YORK, JAN. 12 -- Stock prices closed moderately lower today in a broad decline that analysts said stemmed more from computer-coordinated trading than from widespread selling by individual investors.
The Dow Jones industrial average, off nearly 51 points during the early afternoon, closed at 1928.55, down 16.58 points
The dollar, meanwhile, turned in a mixed performance in light European trading amid uneasiness about the anticipated size of the U.S. merchandise trade deficit for November, figures for which will be released Friday.
A larger-than-expected deficit could spark another sharp decline in the dollar, which could mean another big selloff in the stock market, analysts said.
On Wall Street, early selling through computerized trading programs set the tone for much of yesterday's market activity, analysts said. On the New York Stock Exchange, two stocks lost for every one that gained.
Volatile trading after Friday's massive selloff kept many participants out of the market for fear of getting caught in another sudden downturn, analysts said.
Also curbing buying interest were worries about computer-coordinated trading linked to stock index futures -- cited as a major factor in Friday's 140.59 point decline -- and uneasiness about the upcoming government trade report.
Technology issues, which were broadly higher Monday, fell sharply today on what analysts said were diminished industry earnings expectations for 1988. Digital Equipment fell 7 7/8 to 124 3/4 in heavy trading and IBM fell 2 1/2 to 115 1/4. Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 188.84 million shares.
The NYSE's composite index fell 1.07 to 137.74. Standard & Poor's composite index of 500 stocks fell 2.07 to 245.42. The American Stock Exchange's market value index fell 3.20 to 262.76 while the Nasdaq composite index closed at 331.97, down 4.23.
On foreign markets, the dollar edged higher against the West German, British, French, Dutch and Swiss currencies compared with Monday's late rates, but fell against the Japanese, Italian and Canadian currencies.
Dealers attributed the light trading mainly to nervousness about Friday's scheduled release of U.S. trade figures.
Analysts have speculated that the deficit has widened sharply and confirmation of those expectations could accelerate the dollar's recent slide.
The British pound fell to $1.8185 from $1.8230 Monday. In New York, the pound rose to $1.8215 from $1.8190 Monday.
The dollar closed at 128 Japanese yen in Tokyo, down from 128.50 yen Monday. In London the dollar slipped to 127.60 yen. By the end of trading in New York, the dollar was down to 127.45 yen, compared with 128.45 yen Monday.
Other late dollar rates in Europe, compared with Monday, included 1.6360 West German marks, up from 1.6355; 1.3365 Swiss francs, up from 1.3348; 5.5275 French francs, up from 5.5215; 1.8390 Dutch guilders, up from 1.8370; 1,203.50 Italian lire, down from 1,203.95; and 1.2847 Canadian dollars, down from 1.2900.