NEW YORK — After meandering for much of the day, stock prices charged higher late Thursday, boosted by buying programs and optimism that the stock market's historic rally still has plenty of steam.
The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials rose 15.14 to 1,645.07, breaking the record close of 1,629.93 set in the previous session.
It was the Dow's biggest gain in eight sessions and marked the sixth new high this month for the well-known market index.
For much of the day, stocks were little affected by a rally in the credit markets, which was sparked by weak January retail sales figures--regarded as a sign of weaker-than-expected economic growth--and low world oil prices.
Falling Interest Rates
Although falling interest rates have kept the stock market at lofty altitudes, gains have been tempered by profit taking among traders who believe that the market may be "overbought" and due for a downward correction, analysts said.
But analysts said that, late in the session when there was no apparent strong down trend, buying programs and short covering triggered a late buying spree.
Short covering is stock buying by traders who had borrowed the stock earlier in the hope that its value would drop and they could sell it at a profit.
Several major financial issues moved higher, led by Chase Manhattan, up 1 5/8 to 75 5/8; Citicorp, up 1 to 50 3/8; BankAmerica, up 3/4 to 13, and Manufacturers Hanover, up 7/8 to 43.
Gainers outpaced losers by about three to two on the New York Stock Exchange. Large blocks of 10,000 or more shares traded on the NYSE totaled 2,693, compared to 2,601 on Wednesday.
Big Board volume totaled 136.49 million shares, against 136.37 million in the previous session.
The NYSE's composite index rose 0.74 to a record 125.41.
Nationwide turnover in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 164.57 million shares.
Standard & Poor's index of 400 industrials rose 1.71 to 239.97, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was up 1.43 to 217.40.
The Wilshire index of 5,000 equities closed at 2,244.760, up 12.884 from Wednesday.
At the American Stock Exchange, the market-value index rose 0.39 to 244.51. The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market closed at 347.88, up 1.61.
Higher Bond Prices
In the bond market, prices scored further gains and long-term interest rates tumbled, largely in response to unexpectely weak economic figures and the continuing declines in oil prices.
As trading got under way, the Commerce Department said retail sales edged up only 0.1% in January, even though car purchases increased strongly.
The Treasury Department's key 30-year bond jumped a full point, or $10 for each $1,000 in face amount. The yield on the bond slid to 9.06% from 9.13% late Wednesday.
In the secondary market for Treasury bonds, prices of short-term governments rose from 1/16 point to point, intermediate maturities rose 5/16 point to 5/8 point and long-term issues jumped 5/8 point to 1 point, according to the investment firm of Salomon Bros.
The Merrill Lynch daily Treasury index, which measures price movements on all outstanding Treasury issues with maturities of a year or longer, rose 0.28 from late Wednesday to 111.49. The Shearson Lehman daily Treasury bond index, which makes a similar measurement, rose 3.40 to 1,169.90.
In corporate trading, industrials rose 5/8 point in moderate dealings, and utilities rose 7/8 point in light trading.
Among tax-exempt municipal bonds, revenue bonds gained 1/2 point and general obligations were unchanged. Activity was moderate.
Yields on three-month Treasury bills fell two basis points to 7.08%. Six-month bills dipped one basis point to 7.17%, and one-year bills were down three basis points at 7.17%. A basis point is one-hundredth of a percentage point.
The federal funds rate, the interest on overnight loans between banks, traded at 7.75%, down from 8.25% late Wednesday.