Bank stocks drifted lower with the rest of the market Tuesday, as investors apparently fretted that a slower economy could ultimately hurt earnings.
The Standard & Poor's bank index fell slightly, as did the much-watched S&P 500 index. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones industrial average again struggled to surmount the 6,000 mark - only to fall 13.04 points, to 5,966.77, by day's end.
The largest capitalization banking stocks hardly moved. Citicorp, the top bank company in market value, was unchanged at $92; NationsBank Corp. was unchanged at $88.875; BankAmerica Corp. gained 12.5 cents, to $86.625; and Banc One Corp. gained 12.5 cents, to $40.875.
The biggest loser among major banks was Mellon Bank Corp., whose shares were off $1.50, at $63.25.
In marked contrast to last week, Wall Street this week has gotten little new economic data for guidance. As a result some analysts think the markets will mark time until Friday, when the producer price index is released.
Activity was muted in the credit market, where bond investors waited to assess not only new economic signs but also a U.S. Treasury auction of 10- year notes. Before the auction, the when-issued 10-year security was bid at a yield of 6.51%.
Stocks appeared in a holding pattern as the Dow's drive toward closing above the 6,000 benchmark stalled yet again, amid mixed market psychology about the meaning of crossing yet another thousand mark.
In the Nasdaq market, home to many bank and thrift stocks, the composite index slipped on a downturn in technology stocks. The index had hit a record Monday for the first time since early summer, but profit taking quickly set in.
Fifth Third Bancorp, the largest Nasdaq bank stock after soon-to-be acquired Boatmen's Bancshares, was off 50 cents, to $60.75.