My sense is it relates to the theme of "profit & loss", and commerce/banking, that is developed later in The Burial of the Dead:
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
We have a church (religious symbol) associated with the financial center of London which is a juxtaposition of commerce and the spirit.
Death here can be a living death of of the office worker's life (think Shawn of the Dead, where it takes people a while to realize the dead are walking because everyone is so "zombified";) For Eliot, who had to work in a bank for a time to support his literary pursuits, this would have been a kind of living death.
- Pearls for eyes can be a signifier of visions (dreams) of wealth
An aquatic theme, which runs through this poem and the Four Quartets, connects this idea to ruin and the death of the spirit.
In The Fire Sermon you have river barges & fishermen (commerce). In the Quartets Eliot has a passage about fishermen not always returning to shore, an indicator of the peril, not only of pursuing wealth, but of the "daily bread".
Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.
Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio,
Queen of Heaven.
The Dry Salvages IV
Reading the entire text of The Dry Salvages will shed more light, but this passage is particularly salient:
There is no end of it, the voiceless wailing,
No end to the withering of withered flowers,
To the movement of pain that is painless and motionless,
To the drift of the sea and the drifting wreckage,
The bone's prayer to Death its God. Only the hardly, barely prayable
Prayer of the one Annunciation. The Dry Salvages IV
Eliot indicates the vanity of pursuit of wealth in East Coker III:
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
East Coker III
This brings us back to the Wasteland with the fate of a sailor.
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
The Wasteland IV "Death By Water"
The lead up to this passage is all tied up with dreams of lost wealth, the "inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold." The final line is surely a reference to Ozymandias:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
This idea is established early in the Wasteland:
"I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
The poem's title, "The Waste Land", is specifically meant a critique of the emptiness of modern life, which is related to the ultimate vanity (impermanence) of the material world. The languishing/death of the human spirit brought on by the pursuit/emphasis of worldly things is a theme that runs throughout Eliot's poems (see the Hollow Men, et al.)