NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Hungry bulls ran all over Wall Street Wednesday, gobbling up stocks and driving all major market indicators to record highs.
Taking the market's traditional January upswing to a new level, voracious buyers loaded on blue chip, technology, Internet, financial and airline stocks and took the Dow industrials, the Nasdaq Composite, the Nasdaq 100, the S&P 500 index and the NYSE Composite to levels never seen before.
The Dow Jones industrial average roared past 9,500, settling 233.78 points, or 2.51 percent, higher at 9,544.97, well above its last record close of 9,374.27, set Nov. 23.
On the New York Stock Exchange advances trounced declines 2,006 to 1,100 as 988 million shares traded.
The Nasdaq Composite surged 69.59, or 3.09 percent, to 2,320.86 and the S&P 500 index gained 27.56, or 2.21 percent, to 1,272.34.
Elizabeth MacKay, chief investment strategist at Bear Stearns, called Wall Street's giddy ascent "panicked buying" and "almost a melt-up," attributing the rally to the strong influx of funds into blue chip and big-name stocks. (212K WAV) or (212K AIFF)
Although the run-up caught some of Wall Street's seasoned market watchers by surprise, most were reluctant to change their outlook for the rest of the year, based solely on a strong rally in only the third trading session of 1999.
The bond market settled mostly higher as the dollar continued to claw its way back against the Japanese yen. The benchmark 30-year Treasury bond rose 23/32 of a point in price, for a yield of 5.16 percent.
The dollar regained ground against the yen, but market experts predicted more pain ahead for the U.S. currency. The greenback also rose against the euro.
Mergers and high hopes
In stocks, a simmering merger frenzy and hopes that the first month of the year will bring investors the traditional high returns helped push all major market indexes sharply higher.
Technology, Internet, financial and transportation issues led the way.
Shares of wireless giant AirTouch Communications gained 2-3/8 to 79-7/8 after British firm Vodafone made a $55 billion offer to acquire the company, well above the $45 billion Bell Atlantic offered to pay. Vodafone's American depositary receipts rose 1-5/8 to 180-3/4 and Bell Atlantic's shares gained 1-5/16 to 55-7/8.
Merger speculation also brewed in the auto sector, where DaimlerChrysler is in talks to acquire Nissan Motor and Ford is widely rumored to be eyeing BMW and Honda Motor . DaimlerChrysler closed up 1-7/8 to 108 and Ford moved 2-1/4 higher to 61-3/4.
Elsewhere in the market, investors' appetite for technology and Internet issues also kept going strong. Among the blue-chip techs, Microsoft advanced 4-3/4 to 151-1/4, Dell Computer gained 2-7/8 to 78-1/8, and Intel surged 6-1/4 to 129-1/2. Dow component IBM , however, fell 7/8 to 188-3/4, succumbing to profit taking after a strong performance through most of the day.
On the Internet front, shares of Amazon.com climbed 13-1/2 to 138 and Yahoo! surged 33-1/8 to 291.
Airline shares extended Tuesday's strong gains, driving the Dow transports index 125.08 points, or 3.92 percent, higher to 3,317.46. Shares of AMR , the parent of American Airlines, rose 3-13/16 to 67-7/8, Delta Air Lines gained 5 to 59-1/2, and UAL , the parent of United Airlines, advanced 4-3/8 to 68.
Among the day's few losers, aerospace and defense giant Northrop Grumman tumbled 3-15/16 to 69-5/16 after the company revealed that its 1998 pretax income will be cut by $1.18 a share due to charges stemming mostly from reduced deliveries to Boeing.
Finally, shares of Aspect Telecommunications tumbled 4-15/16, or nearly 29 percent, to 12-1/8 after the company said it would earn 12 to 14 cents a share in the fourth quarter, well below market expectations for 21 cents a share.
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-- by staff writer Malina Poshtova Zang