NEW YORK, DEC. 14 -- The Dow industrials fell 20 points today, closing out the week with a net gain of 3.71 points.
Even after cutting an earlier 33-point loss today, the stock market was unable to shake out of negative territory. Fears lingered that the economy is plagued with both rising inflation and recession pressures following data released this morning that showed an unexpected rise in November producer prices and core inflation rate, coupled with a recessionary steep decline in industrial production and capacity utilization. Hugh Johnson, investment officer at First Albany Corp., said the data gave reason for economists to revise downward their estimates for the current quarter's gross national product. "The economy looks even gloomier than it did a week ago," he said.
To top it off, signs that the Bush administration has made little headway on setting a date for peace talks with Iraq gave the market all the more reason to slump, equity strategists said.
At the close the market was down 20.55 at 2593.81 with declining issues swamping advancing ones by a 2-to-1 margin. Volume was a moderate 150 million shares compared with Thursday's volume of 160.64 million.
General Motors was the most-active stock on the New York Stock Exchange, tumbling a full point to 33 1/4 amid fears that the auto industry is plagued with persistent weakness.
In other movers today, Castle & Cooke lost more than 5 points after news late Thursday that it has canceled its plans to sell its Dole unit and will start paying a dividend, thereby forfeiting badly needed cash. The stock closed off 4 5/8 at 29.
Bank stocks were this session's weakest performers. The biggest losers among them were the New York money center issues -- all down between 1/4 and 2 points. They slumped after newspaper reports that a study to be unveiled on Monday will show the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is weaker than expected.
Among the broad stock indexes, the NYSE Composite was off 1.35 at 178.71, the Standard & Poor's 500 down 2.52 at 326.82, the Value Line off 2.02 at 239.37, the Nasdaq off 2.67 at 368.83 and the Amex Market Value off 0.97 at 305.74.