NEW YORK, DEC. 11 -- The Dow Jones industrial average closed 10 points lower today after recovering from a loss of 21 points earlier in the day.

Analysts ascribed losses to continued economic malaise and recession fears among investors, as well as flurries of index-arbitrage program selling throughout the day.

Analysts agreed that while there were no outstanding news reports or stock movements that decisively set the tone of the session, several subtle influences were at work.

Exacerbating last week's gloomy economic news, the National Association of Purchasing Management forecast that the economy will slide into recession during the first half of 1991.

Early softness in stocks followed temporary morning exhaustion in the U.S. bond market's sharp, two-day rally. And while the 30-year Treasury bond managed a gain of more than half a point by the time stocks closed, trading dynamics were not as impressive as on Monday or Friday. Since stocks barely managed to hold their own on those days, despite the bullish influence of surging bond prices, traders feared that stocks could tumble hard once the bond rally loses steam.

Moreover, a move by the Federal Reserve to drain banking reserves served to quell bullish speculation that the Fed may have intended to push the federal funds target rate down 0.50 percentage points to 7.00 percent, rather than only 0.25 percentage points to 7.25 percent, during Fed intervention on Friday.

Falling oil prices, ahead of what shapes up as a quarrelsome OPEC annual meeting in Vienna on Wednesday, did not appear to cheer the stock market much. January crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled down 49 cents per barrel at $26.41.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2586.14, down 10.64, while declines led advances on the Big Board by almost a 2 to 1 ratio on moderate volume of 145 million shares.

Among Dow components in generally uneventful trading, Goodyear Tire rose 1 to 17 1/4.

Among actives issues, Occidental Petroleum Co. rose to the top of the New York Stock Exchange most-actives list. The stock gained 2 3/8 to 23 1/8 at the opening, after a trading delay following news that chairman Armand Hammer, at the helm of Occidental for 33 years, had died Monday.

Elsewhere, NCR Corp. dipped 1/8 to 89 7/8, 1/8 below the level of AT&T's hostile tender offer, after news that AT&T has lined up several banks willing to finance an acquisition.

Computer disk-drive maker Conner Peripherals traded on high volume, down 1 5/8 to 25 1/4, as near-term prospects for its business came under new scrutiny.

The Dow transports slipped 4.50 to 905.17, and the interest-sensitive utilities eased 1.38 to 209.07 despite a spirited late rally in the bond market.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 2.45 at 326.44, the NYSE Composite down 1.16 at 178.42, the Value Line down 1.55 at 239.02, the Amex Market Value down 0.50 at 306.11 and the Nasdaq Composite down 3.48 at 367.99.