he Dow Jones average exploded to record heights with its fifth consecutive gain today following reports of robust automobile sales and lower interest rates.

"The rally indicates Wall Street is sensing a stronger economic recovery in the months to come," said Alfred Harris, vice president at Stifel Nicholaus & Co. in St. Louis, noting trading was the heaviest in two weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average, which gained 3.49 points Tuesday, climbed 11.32 today to a record 1,156.64, surpassing the old mark of 1,145.90 set March 24. The Dow has gained 43.15 points in the past five sessions and 379.72 since Aug. 12.

The New York Stock Exchange index rose 0.58 point to an all-time high 90.04 and the price of an average share increased 23 cents. Standard & Poor's 500-stock composite index established a new mark of 156.77, up 0.95. Advances topped declines 1,043 to 570 among the 1,976 issues traded.

For the 36th time since August, Big Board volume topped the 100 million share mark, totaling 100.52 million shares, up from 79.90 million traded Tuesday.

"There's an enormous amount of money available for the stock market despite the seven-month rally," Harris said.

"Institutions got tired of waiting for the market to pull back so they began to buy aggressively," said William LeFevre, Purcell Graham & Co. vice president.

They stampeded to buy auto stocks after Detroit reported a 32 percent hike in early April car sales, paced by General Motors' 55 percent surge.

The American Stock Exchange index rose 3.59 points to an all-time high of 399.98 and the price of a share added 14 cents. Advances topped declines 377 to 263. Composite volume totaled 8.50 million shares compared with 7.59 million traded Tuesday.