The Dow Jones industrial average swept past 14,000 for the first time Tuesday after a relatively tame inflation report gave investors reason to extend an extraordinary — but perhaps questionable — Wall Street rally.
The stock market’s best-known indicator crossed 14,000 in the first half-hour of trading but failed to close above that level; it did, however, manage its fourth record close in as many sessions. The Dow rose as high as 14,021.95, having taken just 57 trading days to make the trip from 13,000.
Stocks have risen fairly steadily since the spring amid a continuum of buyout news and evidence that despite higher fuel prices and the ongoing problems in the housing market and mortgage lending industry, consumers are spending and companies remain optimistic about the future. With the Federal Reserve ever vigilant about inflation, any news that prices are rising at a moderate pace has added to the market’s momentum, as it did Tuesday.
The release of mostly upbeat earnings reports helped reassure a market that had worried that a slowing economy and rising energy prices would cut into corporate profits.
But the Dow’s latest accomplishment does raise questions about whether investors are buying more on speculation than fundamentals — and whether these gains can hold. A week ago, the average tumbled nearly 150 points after disappointing forecasts from Home Depot Inc., Sears Holdings Corp. and homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc., but only two days later, the Dow barreled 283 points higher as investors chose to put a positive spin on a generally lackluster series of retail sales reports.
“One of the things we know about the Dow being only 30 stocks is that it is a bit less representative of the entire market, but it is still a sign that large-cap multinationals continue to drive this market,” said Peter Dunay, an investment strategist with New York-based Leeb Capital Management. “For the moment, the momentum and strength is so good. You can’t fight it.”
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow rose 20.57, or 0.15 percent, to 13,971.55.
Broader stock indicators ended mixed. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended flat, slipping 0.15, or 0.01 percent, to 1,549.37 having set its own record highs in recent sessions. The Nasdaq composite index rose 14.96, or 0.55 percent, to 2,712.29.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 3 to 2 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.43 billion shares.
Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 5.07 percent from 5.04 percent late Monday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
Light, sweet crude rose 49 cents to $74.64 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after trading over $75 per barrel. Oil hasn’t closed above $75 since August.
The short time that it took the Dow to pass this its milestone recalls its ascent during the dot-com boom, especially because it took only 129 days to make the passage from 12,000 to 13,000. In the late 1990s, the Dow took just 24 days to go from 10,000 to 11,000, and 89 days to go from 6,000 to 7,000.
In market action abroad, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.58 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.83 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.43 percent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.12 percent.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies rose 1.42, or 0.17 percent, to 849.89.
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