NEW YORK, JUNE 15 -- The Dow Jones industrial average scratched out a 7-point gain to close at a record high today, after being buffeted at several points during the day by programmed trading associated with the quarterly expirations of index futures, index options and stock options -- known as the "triple witching."
Traders generally agreed that this morning's battery of economic statistics -- while failing to extend recent bond-market gains and instead triggering a sharp decline -- nevertheless took backstage to derived-instrument expirations in the stock market.
"The early market was almost entirely preoccupied with the witching," one international block trader said. "Order flows from Europe were quiet -- they watch our market pretty closely, and they 'stand aside' for the witching as do many of our own institutions," he added.
At the close, the Dow stood at 2935.89, up 7.67 for a marginal record-high close. Declines outpaced advances on the Big Board by a ratio of about 4 to 3 as broader stock indexes generally failed to keep pace with even the small Dow advance. Volume swelled to 205 million shares, largely because of futures and options expirations.
Ford lost 5/8 to close at 45 3/4 and Chrysler shed 5/8, ending at 15 1/8, after S&P lowered debt ratings in the face of lagging sales. The agency affirmed its rating on General Motors, which gained 5/8 to close at 50 1/4.
Wal Disney climbed 2 7/8 to 131 3/4 on expectations that the newly opened movie, "Dick Tracy," will be a box office smash.
Merry-Go-Round lost 3/4 to close at 25 7/8 in heavy trading following completion of a 2-million-plus share offering, which came out at $26.63.
The Dow transports finished down 2.19 at 1193.26, but the interest-sensitive utilities, which refused to ignore a fair-sized sell-off in bonds, slumped 1.38 to 211.71.
Among broad stock indexes, blue-chip measures underperformed the Dow, but over-the-counter stocks fared better. The Standard & Poor's 500 was up only 0.01 at 362.91 -- about 4 points below its June 4 record high -- the NYSE Composite was down 0.12 at 197.86, the Value Line down 0.28 at 289.51 and the Amex Market Value down 0.27 at 364.03. The Nasdaq Composite, however, managed a 0.45 gain to 467.55.