NEW YORK — NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks rallied to records again yesterday, led by drug, health-care and household products shares, as investors wagered that those companies would produce the biggest earnings gains in the first half of 1996. For a second day, the Dow Jones industrial average surged amid expectations that the Federal Reserve's policy arm will lower interest rates at its Dec. 19 meeting to prolong the economic expansion into a sixth year. Until that outcome is secure, investors flocked to companies that tend to post steady earnings. The Dow industrials rose 37.93, to 5,177.45, their 67th record this year. The advance was fueled by shares of Procter & Gamble Co., Merck & Co., Boeing Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Coca-Cola Co. At one point, the 30-stock average had rallied 52.02 points, triggering the New York Stock Exchange's "downtick" rule for the 14th time this year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 4 points, to 617.68, its third straight gain and 74th record this year. Shares of Rubbermaid Inc. gained 62.5 cents, to $27.50, after the company said it would close nine plants and cut 1,170 jobs. Some investors interpreted the announcement as showing that the company could get an additional boost in future earnings from trimming costs further. The Morgan Stanley index of 30 consumer stocks rose 3.90, to a record 287.32. Procter & Gamble jumped $2.25, to $86.75; drug maker Abbott Laboratories rose 75 cents, to $40.375; Gillette Co. rose $1.125, to $52.75; Merck climbed $1.375, to an all-time high of $63.375; and Clorox Co. spurted $1.875, to $78.25. Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc.'s stock jumped $1.75, to $37.50. The company, created from the merger of Upjohn Co. and Sweden's Pharmacia AB, is expected to benefit from the introduction of a drug that treats glaucoma, Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Richard Vietor told clients yesterday. About seven stocks rose on the New York Stock Exchange for every five that fell. More than 434 million shares traded on the Big Board, above the three-month daily average of 362 million. Health-care stocks also got a boost from Value Health Inc. The company's stock rose $2.125, to $28.375 after a report that Chairman Robert Patricelli projects earnings growth of 20 percent in 1996 and beyond. Digital Equipment Corp. extended Monday's gains, fueled by optimism that important holiday sales will be stronger than expected. Also Monday, Compaq Computer Corp. said it was already selling out of some models. Netscape Communications Corp. continued its strong gains, rallying $21.50, to $171; Digital Equipment spurted $1.125, to $63.625; Bay Networks Inc. rose $1, to $46.25; Adobe Systems Inc. rose $2.375, to $72.125; and C-Cube Microsystems Inc. rose $3.375, to $110.125. The Nasdaq composite index, which has lagged the Dow industrials and S&P; 500 during the last three months, fell 3.90 points, to 1,065.89. The culprit was Acclaim Entertainment Inc., whose shares fell $6.875, to $12.625. The lowest government bond yields in more than two years helped buoy stock prices, traders said. The yield on the benchmark 30-year government bond is at 6.04 percent, down from 7.88 at the start of this year. Evidence that the economy is slowing enough to warrant a rate cut came from a Ford Motor Co. report showing November sales fell 4.2 percent -- the worst of the Big Three automakers. Shares of Ford fell 62.5 cents, to $29.25; General Motors Corp. dropped 37.5 cents, to $50.875; and Chrysler Corp. gave up 12.5 cents, to $52.375. Among broad market indexes, the Russell 2,000 index of small capitalization stocks rose 0.6, to 313.11; the Wilshire 5,000 index, comprising stocks on the New York, American and Nasdaq stock exchanges, rose 29.53, to a record 6,073.1; the Amex market value index rose 1.08, to 539.41; and the S&P; 400 midcap index fell 0.16, to 219.64.