Dow Hits New High

New York (AP) -- The Dow Jones industrial average broke through 11,900 to close at a record high Thursday, boosted by optimism over the health of corporate earnings.

The index's gain marked its fifth record close in two weeks; the Dow also set a record intraday high.

The markets were upbeat Thursday, with investors focusing on positive news from well-known consumer brands such as McDonald's Corp. and on economic data that indicated the economy was holding up even as it slowed. Oil prices, which remain near lows for the year, also boosted the mood on Wall Street.

"In general, we're getting friendly reports between oil inventories being up higher than expected and then some bellwether companies that are exceeding estimates," said John C. Forelli, portfolio manager for Independence Investment LLC in Boston. "It's kind of a return to the Goldilocks economy."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 95.57, or 0.81 percent, to 11,947.70. The advance put the 12,000 threshold within investors' sights. The previous record close from Tuesday was 11,867.17. The intraday high set Thursday was 11,959.63, eclipsing an earlier trading record of 11,872.94 set Monday.

Broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 12.88, or 0.95 percent, at 1,362.83, and the Nasdaq composite index showed the day's biggest gain, advancing 37.91, or 1.64 percent, to 2,346.18.

Bonds rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.77 percent from 4.78 percent late Wednesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Oil prices hovered near year lows following an Energy Department report that inventories were higher last week and amid doubts about whether OPEC's members will be able to agree on an immediate production cut. The price of a barrel of light, sweet crude, which settled at a low for the year on Wednesday, rose 27 cents to $57.86 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Investors got a look at the state of the economy with the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which summarizes regional economic activity. The report found that economic growth appeared to be moderate or mixed. The findings seemed to reassure investors looking for the economy to slow at a moderate pace.

Kevin Logan, chief U.S. economist at Dresdner Kleinwort, said the Beige Book's tone was more optimistic than the one issued in August.
"They didn't say there was much of an inflation problem. Investors saw this as confirmation that the Fed is on hold."

Investors have been keeping close tabs on the Fed as they try to gauge how quickly the economy is slowing. The central bank left short-term interest rates unchanged at its last two meetings following a two-year string of 17 straight increases aimed at curbing inflation. The Fed has said it remains concerned about inflation, but the slowing economy has prompted some hopes, however slim, that a rate cut could be in the offing.

Investors paid less attention to a Commerce Department reported that showed the country's trade deficit rose to a record $69.9 billion in August, a 2.7 percent increase from July. Increased oil imports outpaced a record level of goods and services exports.

Logan said the markets tend to show little reaction to the trade data because, in terms of capital flows, foreign investors still prefer to hold dollars, which keeps the dollar stable.

"Without a deprecation of the dollar that forces up interest rates and inflation, then the equity market is not sensitive to changes in the monthly trade balances," he said.

Some positive corporate news proved reassuring for some investors.

McDonald's rose 98 cents, or 2.38 percent, to $42.23 after saying systemwide same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, rose 9.8 percent in September. The world's largest fast-food chain, and one of the 30 stocks that comprise the Dow, said its third-quarter profit would top Wall Street's expectation.

Warehouse chain Costco Wholesale Corp., advanced $3.83, or 7.65 percent, to $53.90 after reporting its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 1 percent.

Yum Brands Inc., parent of the Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC fast-food chains, rose $4.51, or 8.26 percent, to $59.08 after reporting that its third-quarter profit rose 12 percent, aided by growth in China. The company raised its full-year profit forecast above Wall Street's expectation.

PepsiCo Inc. fell $1.01 to $62.85 despite posting a 71 percent increase in its third-quarter profit. The snack food and soft drink maker said sales rose 9 percent from the year-ago period, which was hurt by a tax charge. The company's forecast, however, was about a penny short of Wall Street's expectation.

Deluxe Corp., which makes products like checks and business cards, jumped $3.08, or 16.91 percent, to $21.29 after raising its third-quarter and full-year profit forecasts as manufacturing and other costs fell.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners roughly 4 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.56 billion shares, compared with 1.59 billion shares Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 15.38, or 2.07 percent, at 757.09.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 0.19 percent.

Britain's FTSE 100 closed up 0.79 percent, Germany's DAX index was up 0.67 percent, and France's CAC-40 was up 0.91 percent.