Much of Wall Street's recent cautiousness about the ballooning stock market has evaporated, and several brokerage experts predicted today that key securities barometers are likely to continue to set new records over the coming months.
With little evidence of a major pullback in sight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average today rose 11.12 points to a record 1,219.52, its second record-shattering performance in a week. And, analysts say, only major negative news about the world or domestic economy is likely to alter the market's surge.
"The reason you did not get the correction of the magnitude many of us had looked for is that there is too much money on the sidelines that's dying to find a place to get into the market," said William LeFevre, vice president for investment strategy at Purcell, Graham & Co. Inc.
Wall Street analysts have been slow to come to that view and only within the last two weeks have a number of highly regarded stock experts virtually abandoned their hopes for a "correction" of significant proportions following the stock market's broad eight-month rise. The Dow Jones industrial average, the 30-stock measure made up of major, widely traded securities, has gained almost 450 points since the so-called "bull market" began in August.
Although the market move was touched off last summer by signs of a falling prime rate and an improving economy, the continuing market gains, despite only a limited economic turnaround, seem to have convinced money managers that something more is afoot.
According to Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Michael Metz, what other brokerage experts missed when predicting the widely touted late winter, early spring "correction" is the "enormous press of consumer liquidity" that's come to play in stocks.
The phenomenon, another expert pointed out, is not limited to the United States. "My belief is that there is a lot of money all around the world that is moving to stock markets," said Rao Chalasani, senior vice president of Cleveland's Prescott, Ball & Turben. "It is a phenonema happening all around the world, where many markets are reaching new highs."
Tangible investments, such as real estate, and short-term investments, like those in money market funds, had become so appealing, that by early last year, American households had invested about $1 trillion in short-term investments, compared with about $200 million 15 years before, Metz pointed out.
When inflation came under control last year and short-term rates tumbled, the investment mindset had changed and Metz said he became convinced that what was driving the market was a "profound shift in what people do with their money."
And he is also convinced that this pool of wealth has not yet been completely tapped. Among the figures Metz cites is that there is still about $82 billion in almost 2 million margin accounts awaiting investment. "Purchasing power is at an all-time high," Metz said. "Despite the market being up substantially, very few people seem to have spent their money.
"Until this money is worked down or the perception of the world changes, there is no vulnerability of the market," he said. "What causes market corrections is important disappointments or the using-up of buying power."
Furthermore, as long as real interest rates stay high, there is little rationale for people to move to real assets, analysts said. "As long as we have this condition, this market will go regardless of whether the averages continue to make new highs," Chalasani said.
It is also possible, the market's bulls say, that the "correction" has been occuring on a company-by-company or sector-by-sector basis, while the market's broad barometers continued their ascent. Fewer stocks are reaching new highs, analysts note.
Today, for example, 202 stocks reached new highs, half the figure during record-setting days last fall. "What is happening now is that money managers are more selective and instead of just buying, for each stock going up, one is coming down," Chalasani said.
Chalasani had one warning, however. He said he thinks many money managers are neither advancing the market value of their portfolios as quickly as they were late last year nor are they keeping pace with the market averages. "Once they recognize that, they may get a little jittery," he said.
There were few signs of those jitters today, although volume slowed from Wednesday's 118.1 million shares to 94.4 million. Nationwide turnover on NYSE-listed issues, including trades in regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 108.89 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 1.80 points to 182.92, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 1.51 to 162.95.
The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market closed at 290.84, up 1.91.
The Amex market value index rose 4.42 to 423.34.
Members of the Dow Jones industrial average were numerous among the NYSE's active gainers. Among them, Exxon 3/4 to 35, U.S. Steel 1 to 24 5/8, General Motors 2 3/4 to 67 1/2 and International Business Machines 1 1/4 to 117 1/4. A 636,600-share block of U.S. Steel traded at 24.
Chrysler led the active list but was unchanged at 25 3/8. A 500,000-share block traded at 24 1/2 and a 472,800-share block crossed at 24 7/8.
Energy issues again advanced, including Mobil 1 1/4 to 31 1/8, Getty Oil 1 to 66 1/2 and Texaco 5/8 to 36. Standard Oil of Ohio, despite posting lower first-quarter profit, rose 5/8 to 47 1/8.