Memories of "irrational exuberance" drifted through Wall Street today after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan delivered a carefully worded warning about home prices and the stock market.

The Fed chairman's language was so subtle that one of the major news services didn't even pick up on what he was saying.

But the message was clear to veteran Greenspan translators like The Post's Nell Henderson -- and most of Wall Street.

"History has not dealt kindly with the aftermath" of periods when people did not pay enough attention to financial risks, he said.

The big increases in the value of houses, stocks and other assets during the past few years reflect "investors accepting lower compensation for risk," Greenspan added.

If the world becomes more concerned about risk, he cautioned, those big increases "can readily disappear."

Greenspan did not use the term "real estate bubble" but many reports on his speech did. Nor did he coin any phrase as memorable as "irrational exuberance" -- the words he used to refer to the stock market long before the technology-stock-bubble burst.

Still the speech added to selling pressure resulting from a weakening in consumer confidence.

And the stock market got no benefit from a sharp reversal in crude oil prices, which plunged after Hurricane Katrina swerved away from oil and natural gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico. Stocks tanked as oil prices soared under Katrina's threat earlier in the week, but Wall Street did not get the rebound that should have resulted when Katrina and oil prices changed course.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 53 points to 10,397.29, ending the week with a 162 point loss -- the worst in eight weeks.

The Nasdaq Stock Market composite index dropped almost 14 points to 2,120.77 and was off 15 points for the week -- its fourth losing week in a row.

The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index slipped seven points to 1,205.10 -- off 15 points for the week.