NEW YORK, NOV. 12 -- The Dow Jones industrial average surged nearly 52 points today as oil prices declined and investors anticipated a further lowering of interest rates.

With banks closed, credit and currency markets all but shut down for Veterans Day and Japanese markets closed for the enthronement of Emperor Akihito, many traders had expected the session to be a low-volume non-event.

But the Dow tacked on 24 points right out of the gate as New York crude oil prices began to drop sharply -- they ultimately closed down $2.02 at $31.87.

Also fueling the early rise were widespread expectations that the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee will ease its federal funds rate by another 1/4 percentage point, to 7 1/2 percent, at its regular meeting in Washington on Tuesday.

Such a move by the Fed would invite, although not guarantee, a lowering of prime rates by banks below the 10 percent level that has been in effect since early January.

High-technology stocks helped lead today's rally, but financial stocks of all types, including banks, insurance companies and financial services outfits, were also in the forefront.

Also particularly strong were telecommunications, drugs, air transport and broadcasting.

"Everything's in place for a good rally," said block trader Brad Weekes at Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette. "Technology stocks are very strong, but stocks are really up across the board."

"The technology stocks are getting the brunt of the buying, led by IBM," agreed strategist Michael Metz at Oppenheimer.

"That in itself is significant -- it represents a shift away from the defensive plays that have led rallies recently," he said.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2540.34, up 51.73, while advances far outpaced declines on the Big Board by a ratio of more than 2 to 1 on moderately active volume of 161 million shares.

Among Dow stocks at the close, IBM surged 2 3/4 to 113 on most-active New York Stock Exchange volume of over 3.5 million shares, American Express gained 1 7/8 to 21 1/2, Primerica rose 1 1/4 to 20 1/2, Merck added 1 7/8 to 82 3/8 and General Electric moved up 1 5/8 to 55 3/8.

Among leadership groups, in the computers prominent movers included Digital Equipment, up 1 7/8 at 51 1/4; Compaq, up 2 1/4 at 51 3/8; Honeywell, up 1 3/4 at 91 3/8; Storage Technology, up 2 at 19 1/4; Hewlett-Packard, up 1 1/2 at 28 3/8 on the NYSE; and AST Research, up 2 at 26 in Nasdaq trading.

Among money-center banks, another leadership group, Wells Fargo jumped 2 3/8 to 51 3/4, while BankAmerica rose 1 1/2 to 23 3/4, Manufacturers Hanover gained 1 1/2 to 19 3/4 and Citicorp, which intends to sell a billion dollars in convertible stock overseas to bolster its capital base, added 1 to 13 1/4.

Buying continued in cable, cellular and utility stocks in the wake of last week's tax court rulings that acquirers of public franchises can write down intangible assets. MCI was up 1 1/8 to 32, McCaw Cellular added 1 1/8 to 14 3/8 and Lin Broadcasting jumped 5 to 54 1/4. The Dow utilities gained 1.76 to 212.09.

The Dow transports soared 33.29 points to close at 866.69, aided by a 4 5/8 gain in UAL Corp., whose United Airlines has agreed to buy Pan Am's London routes, and by 2-point advances in Delta and Burlington Northern.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was up 5.74 at 319.48, the NYSE Composite up 2.90 at 174.07, the Value Line up 4.30 at 227.50, the Amex Market Value up 3.75 at 294.78 and the Nasdaq Composite up 9.51 at 351.46.