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Dow Ends at Record High
On Mergers, Misses 10,000

By Daniel Bases  Reuters
NEW YORK — The Dow Jones industrial average closed at a record high on Monday, but failed to reach the 10,000 mark after early buying on merger news faded.

The Dow rose 82.42 points, or 0.83 percent, to 9,958.77, after surging 94 points earlier. Its previous closing high, set on Thursday, was 9,897.44.

In the broader market, advancing issues led declines by a narrow margin on moderate volume of 731 million on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the late afternoon, the Dow made one last lunge toward the elusive 10,000 mark, spurred on by a computer-driven buy program. The 30-stock average of blue-chip issues briefly was up 93.80 points to an all-time intraday high of 9,970.15.

"This run at 10,000 is not indicative of the general performance of the stock market at this time," said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Primark Decision Economics.

"It is a symbol of the greatest equity bull market of all time, and reflects a wonderfully performing economy, but right now, reaching 10,000 would be based on trading momentum," Sinai added.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 12.67 points, or 0.98 percent, to 1,307.26, surpassing Thursday's record of 1,297.68.

The NASDAQ composite index rose 49.91 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,431.44, as technology stocks rose after the government's approval late Friday of the merger between America Online Inc. and Netscape Communications Corp. The deal would create an unparalleled presence on the Internet.

Financial stocks were also market leaders, boosted by news that Fleet Financial Inc. will buy BankBoston Corp. for $16 billion.

Fleet fell 2 10/16 to 42 3/16 and BankBoston gained 1/16 to 47 1/16. J.P. Morgan & Co. Inc. rose 3 3/8 to 125 3/8.

In other merger news, two natural gas companies said they would link up. El Paso Energy Corp. and Sonat Inc., will combine in a $6 billion deal.

El Paso's stock lost 3 13/16 to 32 1/16 while Sonat fell 9/16 to 29 5/8.

In the technology sector, America Online Inc. gained 5 10/16 to 101 7/16. Netscape jumped 6 1/8 to 91.

Transportation stocks surged, primarily on news from UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, that it expects near-term earnings to beat Wall Street estimates by about 20 percent. UAL's stock climbed 6 7/16 to 73 1/2.

The Dow Jones transportation index rose 137.14 points, or 4.20 percent, to 3,404.65.

An industry-wide increase in air fares also helped transports.

The market was encouraged after the government reported that February's Producer Price Index fell 0.4 percent, much more than expected, showing that inflation remains under control despite the strength in the U.S. economy.

As the Dow industrials closed in on the 10,000 mark, analysts treated it as a "non-event."

"It really isn't indicative of anything and we've had a mild bias to the upside for weeks now. A sell-off wouldn't surprise me if we crossed over the line," said Phil Rettew, market technician at Merrill Lynch.

"The Dow's strength is misleading," Rettew said, noting the weakness in small-cap issues outside of the Dow and the larger NASDAQ stocks, many of which are hi-techs.

Other analysts noted the chance for a wider spectrum of stocks to pick up strength is increasing as commodity prices and Asia regain some strength.

"Commodities are a reflection of what is happening in other economies. As they strengthen, prices will rise and pricing power returns," to a depressed market, said Jack Shaughnessy, chief investment strategist at Boston-based Advest.

The American Stock Exchange index fell 0.30 points to 720.91.

The NYSE Composite index of all listed common stocks was up 3.68 at 615.22, surpassing Thursday's record closing high 611.67.

The Wilshire Associates Equity Index — the market value of NYSE, American and NASDAQ issues — hit a record 11,865.414, up 105.029, or 0.89 percent.

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