Stocks scamper to another new high Consumer product shares surge amid weakness in technology issues


NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rose to record highs yesterday as investors spurned technology issues and bought shares of companies that make consumer products.

Concern that market-titan semiconductor companies won't be able to live up to Wall Street's expectations sparked a rally in companies with reliable earnings and household-name products.

Gains in Walt Disney Co., Philip Morris Cos., United Technologies Corp. and Exxon Corp. pushed the Dow Jones industrial average up 55.64, to 4,852.67, its 53rd high this year. That surpassed the previous high of 4,825.57 Friday and triggered the New York Stock Exchange "downtick" rule, which limits stock-arbitrage trading, two minutes before the close.

Exxon stock jumped $2, to $76.625, after the oil company issued a report saying Esso Norge AS, a wholly owned subsidiary, discovered oil 100 miles off the Norwegian coast.

Among the other Dow industrials that surged, Philip Morris rose $2, to $88.375, surpassing the three-year high set Friday; AlliedSignal Inc. shares jumped $2.125, to $44.50; Procter & Gamble Co. added $2, to $83; and Walt Disney surged $1.75, to $59.75.

Coca-Cola Co. rose $1.50, to $72.75, and Merck & Co. rose 75 cents, to $58.50.

The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, a broader measure of the market, also set a record yesterday, surpassing the 590.65 reached Oct. 19. The index, which represents 74 percent of the value of all U.S. stocks, jumped 5.39, to 591.71, its 65th high for the year. Oil, electrical equipment, beverage and bank companies led the advance.

A rally in bonds contributed to stocks' advance. The yield on the benchmark 30-year bond fell 6 basis points, to 6.25 percent, a basis point more than late last week, when yields fell to the lowest since January 1994.

The Wilshire 5000 index jumped 43.10, to 5,843.21, a fraction below its Sept. 20 high. The Russell 2000 index of small-company shares rose 0.85, to 302.3, and the American Stock Exchange market value index advanced 2.57, to 531.23.

More than 13 stocks gained in price for every nine that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume rose to 365.9 million shares from 363 million Tuesday.

Gains in the technology-laden Nasdaq composite index petered out as losses in Intel Corp., Xilinx Inc. and Tele-Communications Inc. tempered gains in Microsoft Corp., Novell Inc. and Oracle Corp. The index gained 4.04, to 1,047.94, ending a two-day decline that cost the index 2 percent.

Technology stocks had plunged Tuesday after analysts lowered their investment opinions on semiconductor stocks.

Among the chip companies that extended Tuesday's losses, National Semiconductor Corp. dropped $1.25, to $22; Advanced Micro Devices Inc. fell $1.50, to $21, and Intel shares lost 43.75 cents, to $65.9375.

But an industry report released after the close showed that orders for chips continue to exceed shipments, which bodes well for future earnings. Already, Intel shares rose $1.8125, $67.75, in Nasdaq after hours trading.

Concern that tech companies' earnings momentum is slowing made consumer product companies more popular, because their profit growth is steady even when the economy slows.

The Morgan Stanley consumer index soared to its highest level in more than a year, gaining 3.15 points, or 1.2 percent, to 273.22, more than double the advance of the firm's cyclical index.

Of the 447 companies in the S&P; 500 that reported third-quarter earnings, 52 percent exceeded Wall Street's expectations. About 35 percent fell below estimates.

Among companies that reported earnings yesterday, Dillard Department Stores Inc. dropped 75 cents, to $29.125, after the retailer posted third-quarter returns below analysts' expectations.

Federated Department Stores Inc. gained $1.25, to $28.25, after it said its third-quarter earnings rose 2 percent, exceeding Wall Street's estimates.

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