NEW YORK, DEC. 18 -- The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33 points today, its highest close in over 13 weeks, after the Federal Reserve moved to cut interest rates by half a percent.
The overt Fed move was merely icing on the cake for bullish stock traders, who had enjoyed an 18-point advance at the outset of trading on expectations that just such a further easing of monetary policy was imminent. It followed the Labor Department's report that consumer prices had moderated in November.
In general, bullish analysts greeted the Fed move as providing the ignition for another bull market in stocks, promising significant gains not unlike those of 1986-87 when the Fed last cut its discount rate.
Market dealers who are bearish, however, saw the move with characteristic skepticism, admitting only that the perception of new monetary easing could send the Dow up to 2650-2675 levels before hitting heavy resistance again. Easier Fed rates, argued the bears, will not force banks to lend if they do not wish to, nor will it entice those already heavily in debt to borrow further.
At the close, the Dow stood at 2626.73, up 33.41, while advances led declines on the Big Board by a moderate ratio of nearly 2-to-1 on active volume of 176 million shares.
Among industry groups, no issues benefited more broadly from the interest-rate news than did money-center banks.
Manufacturers Hanover had already gained a full point when the bank announced it would not slash its quarterly dividend, and it ended the day up 1 3/4 at 20 3/4. And while investors were no doubt disappointed by Citicorp's decision to cut its dividend, they were enough encouraged by other announcements of layoffs and modest additions to loan-loss reserves to nudge Citicorp shares by day's end to 14 1/8, up 3/4.
Other money-center banks were also favored. Wells Fargo surged 2 5/8 to 57 3/4, J.P. Morgan advanced 2 3/8 to 44 5/8 and Bankers Trust jumped 2 7/8 to 44 1/8. Full-point gains were realized by First Interstate, Republic New York, Security Pacific and BankAmerica. Only Mellon lost ground, easing 1/8 to 24.
In addition, regional banks, savings and loans, government loan-guarantee agencies, insurance companies and, to a lesser extent, financial services outfits and brokerage firms benefited from the prospect of lower interest rates. MNC Financial added 1/4 to 3 5/8.
Among Dow components, IBM surged 2 to 113 1/2, General Electric rose 1 1/2 to 56 7/8, General Motors gained 1 1/4 to 35 1/8, Minnesota Mining added 1 3/8 to 85 1/2, Primerica tacked on 1 1/4 to 23 1/4 and Procter & Gamble moved up 1 1/8 to 86 7/8.
On the over the counter market, computer maker AST Research jumped 5 1/2 to close at 32 after announcing expectations for a big jump in its quarterly earnings and a 2-for-1 stock split.
The Dow transports rose 11.80 to 907.05, while the interest-rate-sensitive utilities leaped 2.51 to 211.08.
Among broad stock indexes, the Standard & Poor's 500 was up 4.03 to 330.05, the NYSE Composite up 1.97 to 180.19, the Value Line up 1.81 at 239.75, the Amex Market Value up 1.04 at 305.03 and the Nasdaq Composite up 4.43 at 370.15.