Fear of war in the Middle East and widespread economic disruption yesterday slashed stock prices around the globe, pushed interest rates higher and drove oil prices to nearly $32 a barrel.

The Dow Jones industrial average, the market's most closely watched indicator, slid 76.73 points to close at 2483.42. Since Aug. 2, when the Middle East crisis began, the Dow has dropped 416 points, representing about 14 percent of its total value. The index is now at its lowest point in more than a year. {Details, Page B1.}

The vast economic trauma that could be caused by an all-out war in the Persian Gulf was clearly the concern that caused investors to push down stocks, not only in New York but in the Far East and in Europe, market analysts said. Investors clearly were concerned that rising oil prices would lead to higher inflation and help bring on a recession in the United States and elsewhere.

In Tokyo, the stock and bond markets have been particularly hard hit, with the key stock market index falling nearly 10 percent in just two days. Yesterday, it posted its fourth-worst point loss in history, helping cut its value since Aug. 1 by nearly one-fourth. Today, reacting to the ebb and flow of Mideast news, the 225-stock Nikkei average reversed course, recouping nearly 2 percent of its market value by the close of trading.

What worries the Japanese is that they are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil. Japan's economy could also be hurt because it is a heavy exporter of industrial and consumer products and services to Iraq and Kuwait.

Dismal showings in the Tokyo, Hong Kong and other Far Eastern markets spilled over to London, where stock prices fell 1.4 percent, despite a late afternoon recovery.

The nervous trading in financial markets also affected the oil sector yesterday, where the price of crude rose another 71 cents to close at $31.93. Oil prices have surged nearly 50 percent since Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The movement of oil prices, fueled by fears that a war could severely disrupt oil supplies, continued to affect U.S. Treasury bonds, with bond prices falling as oil prices rose, and vice versa. The bellwether 30-year U.S. Treasury bond dropped $7.81 per $1,000 face amount. Its yield, which moves in the opposite direction of its price, climbed to 9.13 percent from 9.05 percent.

The dollar again took it on the chin in international currency trading as traders who were worried about a U.S. economy possibly beset by war, inflation and recession, sought refuge in other currencies.

In London, the dollar dropped to a nine-year low against the British pound. The dollar also saw new lows against the German mark and the Swiss franc. In Toyko, the dollar closed at 145.88 yen, down 1.04 yen. In New York, later in the day, it fell to 146.12 yen.

Stock market analysts acknowledged yesterday that the Middle East situation made it difficult for them to devine how and when the stock market fall might end.

"All the conventional tools of market analysis are useless against the threat of military confrontation and possible economic strangulation" if oil supplies are interrupted, said Larry Wachtel, market analyst for Prudential-Bache Securities Inc.

Dean Witter Reynolds Inc.'s chief market strategist, John Connolly, in attempting to assess the damage to financial markets, said he saw a tension between two groups of investors.

The pessimists, he said, expect war and fear that damage to the flow of oil would cause inflation, layoffs and a deep recession in the United States. The more optimistic investors are hoping that the United Nations-led embargo against Iraq will dampen the chances of a shooting war.

Connolly noted that large investment institutions, such as pension funds, appeared to be unloading stocks regularly and in all industries. Since the Dow closed just shy of 3000 on July 17, some stocks such as Boeing Corp., McDonald's Corp. and Woolworth Corp. have fallen 30 percent each.

Such across-the-board selling was one of the reasons that oil company stocks were dropping, he noted, even though oil prices were still rising.

Texaco fell to $60.12 1/2, down $3.62 1/2; Exxon was off $1.75 to $49.62 1/2; Chevron lost $3 to $75.62 1/2; and Mobil dropped $2.37 1/2 to $62.87 1/2.

Once again, the downdraft was broad-based, beyond the 30 stocks in the Dow. Declining issues overwhelmed advances by about 11 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, with 148 up, 1,645 down and 242 unchanged.

While the market has been hard hit, several analyst said the Dow's plunge might have been much worse, without the recently adopted New York Stock Exchange rule that curtails the use of computerized program trading when the Dow falls more than 50 points.

Under the 50-point rule, program traders can sell only when prices are rising, and can buy only when prices are falling. The effect is to slow and curb the use of the computerized programs, used by large investment institutions to profit from the differences between prices in the stock and futures markets.