Wall Street took a breather today, carefully watching developments at the United Nations and the OPEC meeting in Vienna but finding few clues to help investors decide what to do next.

In a day of subdued trading, all the familiar indexes were off slightly.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 44 points to close at 7,524.06.

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index was off nearly 7 points at 800.73.

The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index also fell nearly 7 points to 1,271.47.

At the United Nations, the United States continued to push for a Security Council vote this week authorizing an attack on Iraq, but most other countries seemed to be in no rush to start the fighting.

OPEC oil ministers, who usually get the blame for high oil prices, said the threat of war is responsible this time and pledged to step up production if the outbreak of fighting causes energy shortages.

"If you eliminate the drums of war, we will see oil prices fall," said Ali Nuaimi, Saudi Arabia's oil minister.

With the drumming at least diminished for the day, crude oil prices did fall, coming down less than a dollar in response to OPEC's offer to try to pump more oil if supplies are cut by war in the Middle East.

The threat of war further undercut investors interest in airline and travel companies, which are expecting their business to dry up if there is an attack on Iraq. Shares of Delta Airlines; AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines; and Sabre, the online airline reservations service, led industry stocks toward all-time lows today. Speculation that American will soon be forced into bankruptcy drove that stock down again today. Delta issued a warning that its traffic is already being hurt by war worries. And United Airlines said it will need more time to prepare a bankruptcy reorganization plan, a job complicated by rising fuel costs and falling traffic, both the result of the war threat.

The drug industry also was hit by a broad sell-off after King Pharmaceuticals was the latest to be targeted for a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.{lt}/p{gt}