NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- Barreling through its third century mark in a month, the Dow Jones industrial average surged 33.89 points yesterday, to 4,303.98, its third consecutive session to record a closing high.
Broader market measures also gained, paced by a strong rally in semiconductor stocks and continued euphoria over robust corporate earnings reports.
The Standard & Poor's index of 500 stocks jumped 4.40 points, or 0.87 percent, to 512.89, also a record and the day's biggest percentage gain among the major market yardsticks. The Nasdaq composite index, heavy with technology shares, rose 5.47 points, to 828.91.
"The market is sprinting here," said Robert Stovall, president of Stovall/21st Advisers. "It's running at a pace of being up more than 30 percent by the end of the year. I think that's unlikely, but it's converting a lot of bears into reluctant bulls."
Indeed, advancing issues yesterday outpaced decliners on the New York Stock Exchange by 1,366 to 863.
Because no single reason exists -- or because the celebrants do not want to tempt fate by leaving out any explanation -- analysts cited numerous causes for the market's continued strength.
For one, corporate acquisitions continue apace: Hillhaven Corp., the nation's second-largest operator of nursing homes, agreed yesterday to be acquired by Vencor Inc., a provider of long-term hospital care, in a $1.4 billion stock swap, and Chiron Corp., the biotechnology company that owns 17 percent of Viagene Corp., agreed to buy the rest for about $95 million.
Corporate profits also continued to surprise traders. Premark International Inc., the maker of Tupperware plastic products, ended the first quarter with earnings of 71 cents a share, up from 56 cents a year ago and well above the consensus analyst estimate of 64 cents. Premark closed up $2.375 a share, at $48.
In addition, one of the most forlorn sectors of the market awakened yesterday -- Mexican stocks, which have performed dismally since the Mexican government devalued the peso in December, gained sharply. American depositary receipts for shares in Telefonos de Mexico rose $1.75, to $31.375, while those of Grupo Televisa S.A. jumped $1.75, to $20.75.
After taking a weekend to ponder last week's healthy earnings reports from IBM, analysts had kind words for the company and, to a greater extent, the semiconductor companies that thrive on growth in computer sales.
IBM gained $1.875 a share, to $93.50, but the day's most impressive action came among the chip makers.
Shares of Texas Instruments Inc. gained $7.25, to $101; those of Intel Corp. jumped $3.625, to $96.50; Micron Technology Inc. rose $3.875, to $80; and Motorola Inc., a laggard in recent sessions, moved ahead $2, to $54.25.
"All of the semiconductor makers reported earnings well in excess of what the most bullish of us thought," said Rick Whittington, an analyst for Soundview Financial of Stamford, Conn.
"In addition, we got highly favorable reports from IBM, Compaq and Silicon Graphics," he said. "That sets the stage for continued high consumption of semiconductors."
Mr. Whittington said that after last week's earnings announcements from the computer-chip makers, he raised his estimates of 1995 earnings by an average of 20 percent for each of those companies.
"For a number of these companies, people thought the semiconductor makers were like Ford and Chrysler, that earnings were about to roll over and die," Mr. Whittington added.
"This is an upward trend that will last several more years, not just through the end of 1995," he predicted.
Yesterday's close for the Dow industrials, in which the index broke through the 4,300-point level in the last hour of trading, makes this the eighth consecutive week in which the industrials have hit a new record.
And the index's 10 highest all-time closes have all occurred this month.
The bellwether Dow industrials' first close over 4,300 points came less than three weeks after breaking through 4,200 and one month after breaking through 4,100.
The index first closed at more than 4,000 points on Feb. 23.