The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, which had posted a net loss of 76.24 points over the week's first three sessions, dropped 16.58 points to 2,855.45.
But advancing issues held a slight edge on declines in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, with 818 up, 749 down and 490 unchanged.
Volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 199.83 million shares, against 196.81 million in the previous session. Nationwide, consolidated volume in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 247.28 million shares.
Interest rates were slightly lower in the credit markets. Prices of long-term government bonds rose about $1 for each $1,000 in face value, lowering their yields to the neighborhood of 8.33 percent-8.37 percent.
The stock market has been unsettled in the past few days by a barrage of disappointing first-quarter earnings estimates from several prominent companies.
If profits point to continued weakness in the economy, many analysts reason, the Federal Reserve may well find room to relax its credit policy further.
However, several individual stocks were still under pressure from sellers surprised by adverse earnings news.
International Business Machines fell 2 1/4 to 111 7/8. The stock fell 13 3/4 points Tuesday and Wednesday after the company said its first-quarter earnings were likely to fall far short of some analysts' estimates. …