NEW YORK, DEC. 17 -- The Dow Jones industrial average ended a session of slow trading almost unchanged today as concern about the health of banks and the expiration of futures and options contracts on Friday kept many investors on the sidelines.

Renewed concern about the nation's banks served to dampen market spirits, as the House Banking Committee heard testimony about higher than expected losses for the deposit insurance fund.

Among bank stocks, Bankers Trust fell 1 to 41 1/4, Manufacturers Hanover lost 1 1/4 to 19, First Interstate gave up 1 1/8 to 24 1/8, Republic New York slipped 7/8 to 47 5/8 and Chemical eased 7/8 to 11. Citicorp slipped only 3/8 to 13 3/8. There is speculation that more loan-loss reserves may be required at Citicorp by mid-January, endangering fourth-quarter profitability.

The market was also undermined by institutional sidelining ahead of Friday's quarterly expirations of index futures, index options and stock options.

Traders said that both the currency and U.S. bond markets were equally quiet. Bonds were up only 5/32 as stocks closed, compared with a 5/32 loss as they opened, and therefore lent little real support to equities. The dollar traded only moderately higher against most currencies.

At the close, the Dow stood at 2593.23, down 0.49. Declining issues far outpaced advancing ones by a 2-to-1 ratio. Trading volume was light at 118 million shares.

Among New York Stock Exchange actives, Chrysler held a fractional gain all day, closing up 5/8 at 12 7/8 on composite volume of about 2 million shares, reflecting takeover speculation in the wake of financier Kirk Kerkorian's announced 9.8 percent stake in the automaker.

General Cinema increased 3/4 to 19 after the company announced the buyback of up to 10 million of its common shares.

PS Group, the San Diego aircraft leasing firm, added 7/8 to close at 33 3/8 after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway increased its stake to 45 percent of the company.

The Dow transports slipped 7.87 to 895.25, while the utilities closed flat at 208.56.

Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was down 0.80 at 326.02, the NYSE Composite down 0.49 at 178.22, the Value Line down 1.43 at 237.94, the Amex Market Value down 1.75 at 303.99 and the Nasdaq Composite down 3.11 at 365.72.