NEW YORK – The Dow Jones industrial average scored its first close above 12,000 Thursday as Wall Street, showing its growing confidence despite new evidence of a weakening economy, managed to hold on to a slim advance.
At the close, the Dow rose 19.05, or 0.16 percent, to 12,011.73. The index rose as high as 12,027.74 during afternoon trading, which is below Wednesday's intraday high of 12,049.50
Broader stock indicators also advanced. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.94 or 0.07 percent, to 1,366.90, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 3.79, or 0.16 percent, to 2,340.94.
Bonds fell, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.79 percent from 4.76 percent late Wednesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices rose.
The stock market's most prominent benchmark ended the day at 12,011.73, the ninth time in just over two weeks that the Dow has achieved a record high close. The record came one day after the index of 30 blue chip stocks made its first foray past 12,000.
The Dow's latest milestone came on the anniversary of Black Monday in 1987, when the Dow plunged 508 points and also suffered its second-biggest percentage drop in history. The Dow finished that day at 1,793.90 — far from Thursday's record.
The finish above 12,000 was the latest sign that the stock market continues a cautious recovery from the losses and despair investors suffered in the early part of this decade. After peaking in early 2000, the Dow and other indexes fell precipitously amid the dot-com collapse, recession and the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Still, trading was erratic Thursday, with the overall market struggling to sustain an advance gains after a pair of reports signaled the Federal Reserve might have a tougher time orchestrating a soft landing of the economy. Disappointing earnings in the technology sector also weighed on stocks.
The Conference Board's index of U.S. leading economic indicators rose less than forecast in September. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Fed's general economic index contracted for the first time since April 2003. The numbers rattled investors who had been sending stocks higher since September on optimism the Fed might even cut rates in early 2007.
Oil prices rose ahead of OPEC's meeting to discuss a possible cut of 1 million barrels a day to prop up prices. A barrel of light sweet crude rose 85 cents to $58.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
On Thursday, the Dow rose as high as 12,049.51, which stands as its trading high, but fell back as many investors turned conservative and decided to cash in some profits.
Many analysts, who use the S&P 500 as their benchmark, shrugged off the Dow's move.
"There's a lot of fanfare about 12,000, but it's just another number," said David Darst, chief investment strategist for Morgan Stanley's global wealth management group. "The real story is that there is a river of liquidity that is flowing through the market. ... The 12,000 number is one more confirmation of that."
Wall Street has been watching corporate earnings closely, and Thursday's reports offered a mixed bag.
Coca-Cola (KO) reported quarterly profit rose 14 percent, aided by sales in Europe due to the World Cup soccer promotions and growth in emerging markets. The results surpassed Wall Street projections. Shares rose 95 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $44.91.
Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc. (PFE) reported third-quarter profit more than doubled from a year ago when results were hurt by an acquisition charge. The world's largest drugmaker also promised more cost cutting in years ahead. Shares of Pfizer fell 42 cents to $27.68 after spending most of the day in positive territory.
Another bright spot was Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL), which surged after reporting stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter results. Driving profit were sales of its iPod music players and Macintosh computers.
Its shares rose $4.46, or 6 percent, to $78.99.
However, investors were rattled by Advanced Micro Devices Corp.'s (AMD) quarterly report in which it signaled falling profit margins and lower desktop processor prices. The world's No. 2 chip maker reported a 77 percent jump in profit from the year-ago period. It fell $3.22, or 13.3 percent, to $21.01.
Also falling was Nokia Corp. (NOK) after the handset maker posted a 4 percent decline in third-quarter profit as it took a hit from one-time charges and saw profit margins erode. Nokia fell 52 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $19.35.
Dell Inc. (DELL) dropped $1.58, or 6.4 percent, to $23.12 after two research firms said rival Hewlett-Packard Co. surpassed it as the world leader in personal computer shipments.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by almost 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.64 billion compared to 1.62 billion at the same point Wednesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies was up 3.98, or 0.52 percent, at 767.39.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed lower by 0.61 percent. In afternoon trading, Britain's FTSE 100 was up 0.09 percent, Germany's DAX index was down 0.09 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.03 percent.