- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street extended its record-setting advance yesterday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average within a whisper of 12,000 as investors grew more optimistic that corporate profits will remain robust in a slowing economy.

The blue-chip index came within three points of reaching the milestone for the first time before falling back minutes before the close; it still managed a record high finish, its seventh in two weeks. A deluge of earnings reports, including 12 from Dow component companies slated this week, could make or break the Dow’s three-week run at record levels.

The Dow rose 20.09, or 0.17 percent, to 11,980.60. In the final hour of trading, the Dow reached a record trading high of 11,997.25.

Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 3.43, or 0.25 percent, to 1,369.05, and the Nasdaq Composite Index rose 6.55, or 0.28 percent, to 2,363.84.

Bonds rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note dipping to 4.78 percent from 4.80 percent on Friday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.

Stocks advanced despite a sharp rise in energy prices, with natural gas having its biggest rise since July. Light, sweet crude closed up $1.37 at $59.94 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“From a Dow perspective, in a market environment where there is uncertainty, people are arguing at what pace and severity the economy is slowing,” said J. Michael Barron, chief executive of Knott Capital. “Those are markets where traditional, big-cap stocks tend to outperform. I think the underlying reason the Dow is moving higher is that people are uncertain as to what’s happening right now, and the safer bet is to go with global brands.”

Investors will have several global companies to scrutinize this week. Among them are Citigroup Inc., 3M Co., Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp.

Early indications of how companies have fared during the third quarter have been mixed. Wachovia Corp.’s reported profit rose 13 percent, but revenue missed projections. Toy maker Mattel Inc. topped Wall Street projections, while Charles Schwab Corp. posted a strong profit on lighter-than-expected revenue.

There was little reaction after St. Louis Federal Reserve President William Poole said in a speech that “draconian” action won’t be needed to control the economy if inflation ebbs. Wall Street was also relieved that Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke stayed away from the economy in a speech yesterday, and instead spoke on regulatory burdens in efforts to battle terrorist financing.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. fell after it reported Sunday that Chief Executive William McGuire will leave the company by Dec. 1 under scrutiny over backdated stock options. The nation’s second-largest health insurer faced an independent report that found widespread problems with the way the insurer issued stock options. Shares fell $1.21, or 2.2 percent, to $55.25.

Military and commercial vehicle maker Oshkosh Truck Corp. announced it would acquire JLG Industries Inc. for about $3 billion in cash. Oshkosh fell $3.05, or 5.5 percent, at $52.49, while JLG surged $6.81, or 32.8 percent, to $27.56.

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