NEW YORK -- Share prices for major issues plunged yesterday as the bellwether Dow Jones industrial average was belatedly caught in the same down draft affecting other measures of financial markets here and abroad.
In moderately heavy trading, the Dow fell 61.94 points, to close at 3,213.55, its biggest one-day drop in five months. Other major indexes posted similar declines, as more than four out of five issues on the New York Stock Exchange posted losses.
Late in the session, computer-generated sell programs further depressed prices. Throughout the day, there had been serious selling by major institutions, said Brad Weekes, managing director of Donaldson Lufkin Jenrette.
Small investors, however, remained sanguine. At T. Rowe Price, a large Baltimore-based mutual fund company, the volume and pattern of calls from shareholders was normal, said spokesman Steven Norwitz.
The sudden drop in the Dow follows far more decisive losses registered elsewhere.
Prices on the Toronto Exchange suffered their worst single-day loss in a year after sliding throughout the month, and the London market has been battered in recent weeks as Britain approaches national elections.
Yesterday's close left the Dow at approximately the same level it was when the year began, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 is off about 4 percent.
"The Dow is catching up to reality," Mr. Weekes said. "I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner."