Technology stocks soared, giving the Nasdaq composite index its biggest one-day point gain ever, after the Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged.
The Fed, delivering an early Christmas present to Wall Street, also suggested there may be no need to raise rates in the coming months. Its announcement propelled the Dow Jones industrial average out of a modest slump, sending the blue chips up 56.27 to close at 11,200.54.
The Nasdaq's record gain of 127.28 brought the technology-dominated index to 3911.15 for its 56th new closing high of 1999. The Nasdaq is up 78 percent for the year to date.
The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 15.34, to 1433.43.
Stock investors were mildly surprised by Fed's announcement after its Open Market Committee held its last meeting of 1999.
Most economists believed the Fed would set aside concerns that the economy is growing too quickly and leave short-term interest rates unchanged until sometime in 2000. But many investors also expected the Fed to adopt a tightening bias, which would signal a willingness to raise rates at some point in the future.
Instead the Fed, which has raised rates three times in 1999 to keep inflation from escalating, remained neutral.
Yet the Fed's decision came with a note of caution. Central bankers said they left interest rates and their bias unchanged in an effort to ensure a smooth transition to the year 2000, yet they remain concerned about the torrid growth rate of the U.S. economy.
Bond prices, which are generally more sensitive to inflationary pressures, received only a fleeting boost from the Fed's announcement. The yield on the 30-year Treasury bond dipped as low as 6.39 percent, then bobbed back to 6.46, up from 6.44 percent late Monday as the price fell $2.50 per $1,000 in face value. The yield on the long bond is near its highest level since September 1997.
Financial stocks rose on the promise of stable interest rates. Banks and brokerages can suffer when interest rates are rising, because higher rates reduce the demand for loans. American Express rose 2-37/64, to 157-13/16, and Chase Manhattan gained 2 3/4, to 75.
Beyond the interest-rate debate, technology stocks once again led the market. DoubleClick, a Web advertising company, rose 15 1/8, to 216 1/2, after announcing it will split its stock 2 for 1.
CMGI shot up 48-1/16, to 270 1/4, after Merrill Lynch analyst Henry Blodget launched coverage of the company and said its shares should reach 300 within 12 to 18 months.
Juno Online Services rose for a second consecutive session after announcing it would launch a free Internet access service. Juno shares rose 77 percent Monday and gained more than 100 percent today, rising 37 3/4, to 66 3/4.
In after-hours trading, Bloomberg News reported, 3Com dropped after reporting that sales fell during the latest quarter. Stock in the second-biggest maker of computer networking equipment fell 3 1/8, to 50, after rising 4 1/4, to 53 1/8, during regular trading.