NEW YORK, NOV. 6 -- The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 17 points today, as trading interest waned amid the day's national elections and nervousness about the Treasury's massive refunding this week.
Mildly rising oil prices served to soften stock prices. December crude oil futures firmed 67 cents per barrel to $32.63.
Domestic institutions kept a low profile due to Election Day caution as well as to normal nervousness during the quarterly Treasury refunding.
Although today's auction of $12.5 billion in three-year notes was well bid, analysts said, the Treasury must still find ready buyers for $11 billion in 10-year notes on Wednesday and for another $10.75 billion in 30-year bonds on Thursday.
"There's always a little nervousness about Treasury refundings," said chief trader Kenneth Ducey at S.G. Warburg.
"I think a lot of people are content just to sit back and watch the progress -- talk right now is that it will all go pretty well," Ducey said. "But you can probably expect a pretty dull market for the next couple of days."
At the close, the Dow stood at 2485.15, down 17.08, although declines outpaced advances on the Big Board by only a slim margin of about 3 to 2 on moderate volume of 141 million shares.
Among Dow components, Alcoa was a persistent loser, down 1 at 53 by the close amid continued worries about the company's high aluminum inventories.
Eastman Kodak dropped 1 1/8 to 39 3/8 while Minnesota Mining lost 1 1/4 to 80 and Texaco gave up 1 1/8 to 58 3/4.
Among stocks in the news, Browning-Ferris Industries was slammed to a 6-point, 20 percent loss, in heavy trading, closing at 24 1/4 following a disappointing quarterly earnings report.
The company said results were marred by greater-than-expected charges for landfill-development projects and the settlement of private lawsuits.
Waste Management was also a prominent volume active, finishing down 2 at 33.
Both Waste Management and Browning-Ferris are settling a three-year-old lawsuit that's charging price-fixing for container-refuse services.
Circuit City fell 3 to close at 11 1/4 after reporting that same store sales fell 7 percent this October compared to the same month a year ago. Trading was six times the normal volume.
USF&G fell 1 1/2 to 12 1/8 after Shearson Lehman told its sales force to expect the insurer to cut its dividend.
Hewlett Packard dropped to 25 7/8, off 2 1/8, after Bear Stearns removed the stock from its recommended list and cut its earnings estimate.
The Dow transports ended down 6.46 at 844.13, while the utilities encountered more profit-taking and slipped 1.57 to 213.09.
While the shares of larger companies generally languished with moderate losses today, the broad market handily outperformed them.
The Standard & Poor's 500 was down 2.97 at 311.62, in line with the Dow and the NYSE Composite fell 1.28 to 170.21. But moving off the New York exchange, the Value Line index lost only 0.50 to 222.93, the Nasdaq Composite eased a mere 0.23 to 340.53 and the Amex Market Value gained 0.57 to 292.15.