The stock market yesterday surged to its third record performance this year as the Dow Jones industrial average barely missed closing at the magic 1,300 mark.
The Dow closed at 1,299.36, up 15.35, exceeding the previous high of 1,297.97 set on Feb. 13. The index briefly had brushed past the magic barrier, reaching 1,305 before backing off in late trading.
The gain for the week was 23 1/2 points, with about two-thirds of that increase occurring yesterday afternoon.
Volume rose to 140 million shares, compared with 100.7 million on Thursday. Advances outpaced declines by more than 2 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, with 1,120 stocks rising and 470 falling. The NYSE's composite index gained 1.11 to 106.04, just shy of its record of 106.08 on Feb. 13.
Some stock market analysts linked the market's performance to more good news on the economic front. The Commerce Department reported that the index of leading economic indicators -- the government's major barometer of future economic activity -- rose 1.7 percent in January, the strongest gain since June 1983.
The indicators report provided analysts with renewed confidence in solid economic growth for the first half of the year after a slowdown late last month that some economists thought would lead to a recession.
The Commerce Department also reported a strong 2 percent increase in construction activity in January, following a 0.6 percent rise in December.
"Once the market approached 1,300, you have some people jumping on the bandwagon because they figure this is going to be the great leap forward," said Michael Metz, a senior vice president at Oppenheimer & Co.
Yesterday was "one of those days that humbles professionals" because many analysts were caught off guard by the market's activity, Metz said. He credited the strong advances to the accumulation of encouraging economic news. He also said there was "growing evidence of increasing individual interest in the market," reflected in strong mutual fund sales.
The psychological impact of reaching 1,300 "would motivate some people to enter the market," said Christine Callies, a vice president at Dean Witter Reynolds.
She also said that the leading indicators report stimulated the market to do what it had been planning to do a month before. "The market doesn't put together a good day in an otherwise" bad environment, Callies said.
The Dow has traded above the 1,300 level several times this year, only to retreat in the closing moments of trading. Yesterday the Dow was up 11.26 points by noon and passed 1,300 at about 2:30 p.m. But the market backed off in the final minutes.
Stocks have been rising steadily since the first of the year, with the emphasis in trading shifting from defensive stocks -- including those of utilities and food and beverage companies -- to growth stocks, especially high-technology issues.
Reports circulating yesterday that Ted Turner, owner of Cable News Network, had had discussions with the Federal Communications Commission concerning a takeover of CBS sent CBS stock soaring 4 points to 88 1/2.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 165.16 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials climbed 2.47 to 205.15, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 2.05 at 183.23.
The Nasdaq composite index for the over-the-counter market gained 2.99 to 287.16. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 288.48, up 1.05.