NEW YORK, JUNE 18 -- The Dow Jones industrial average skidded 53 points today as investors' hopes of lower interest rates sank, resulting in short-term profit-taking, traders said.

New pessimism that the Federal Reserve is not likely to ease interest rates until midsummer or even the autumn was the prime psychological ingredient behind the decline, analysts said.

In recent months, stock traders have tried to anticipate changes in the Fed's interest rate policy, focusing on monthly reports on the economy. Some of the numbers have indicated weaker growth but others have pointed to future strength. In fact, over the past six months the pace of the economy has changed very little and the Fed has not altered its policy at all.

Each time traders have decided the Fed was about to move, they have been proved wrong, and that apparently helped prompt today's market slide.

Three prominent waves of computerized program selling helped push a listless market to as much as a 46-point Dow loss shortly after 2 p.m.

Program sellers backed away as the Dow approached a 50-point loss -- a level at which several influential stock speculators have agreed to voluntarily curtail their activities. But a final flurry of sell-programs swept the Dow to a close at new session lows.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2882.18, down 53.71. Declining issues swamped advances on the Big Board by a 4 to 1 ratio on relatively light volume of 133 million shares.

{Share prices also fell sharply on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Tuesday morning, the Associated Press reported. The 225-share Nikkei Stock Average shed 361.99 points from Monday's close, or 1.12 percent, ending the morning session at 32,014.81. The index, which had lost 161.60 points Monday, was off more than 460 points at one point.

{Traders attributed the Nikkei index's decline to an increase in U.S. interest rates and the big drop in the Dow in New York overnight.}

''The program selling we've seen today has not really been all that heavy, but it's been consistent enough to keep pressure on the market," said trader Jim Creber at Miller, Tabak and Hirsch.

''But what's striking about this market is really the breadth -- it's deteriorated pretty badly,'' he said. Over-the-counter technology stocks "are beat up pretty badly, and the {Dow} utilities are a small disaster.''

Other factors also helped depress stocks, including newfound conviction by some prominent market technicians that the spring rally has lost steam and that blue-chip indexes have reached intermediate-term highs.

On Friday, the Dow scored an ''artificial'' record high by only seven-tenths of a point amid the confused dynamics of the quarterly ''triple witching'' expirations of derived-equity instruments, these analysts maintained. Today's poor results were seen as further evidence that the true, undistorted near-term trend of the market has turned downward.

''I think the market's had it for a while -- at least until the first time the Fed actually eases,'' said veteran market strategist Michael Metz at Oppenheimer & Co. The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy-making arm, next meets on July 2, but chances for a clear change in policy that early are dubious, Metz said.

But Monte Gordon, research director at Dreyfus Corp., argued, ''The bottom line is that there's still a lot of cash out there earmarked for the stock market that has not been spent.''

Gordon said that, short term, the Dow has only now tested, and broken, its first-tier support near 2900 -- still constituting only a minor retracement off the highs.

More than a third of the stocks in the Dow industrial average posted losses of a point or more -- including IBM, 3M, Merck, Procter & Gamble, Chevron, General Electric and General Motors.

UAL slid 2 1/8 to 155 5/8 amid talk that United Airlines's nonunion personnel are balking at the takeover effort being spearheaded by three of United's unions.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down a hefty 6.03 at 356.88, the NYSE Composite down 2.93 at 194.93, the Value Line down 3.39 at 286.12, the Amex Market Value down 3.27 at 360.76 and the Nasdaq Composite down 6.76 at 460.79.