NEW YORK -- After a two-day breather, stock prices resumed their advance with feeling yesterday, with many indexes yet again bounding to new highs.
In heavy trading, the Dow Jones industrial average, which had set eight records in the previous 12 trading days, repeated the feat, rising 60.60 points, or nearly 2 percent, to 3,246.20.
Chief among the factors cited for the rise was the retail sales figure for December, which was disturbing but not unexpected. The reason such bad news appeared to please investors is that it raised hopes of yet another move by the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates, which in the long run would lift corporate earnings.
Low interest rates have driven small investors to the stock market, since it currently offers one of the few investments with an attractive return.
Some leading oil companies provided leadership for the market, giving it an early boost on speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' meeting next month could bring an agreement to reduce oil production and in turn raise prices.
ARCO jumped 4 1/8 , to 108 3/8 ; Exxon gained 1, to 60 1/4 ; and Mobil rose 1 1/2 , to 66 7/8 .
Traders said American Express added stimulus to the market as it rose on reports that it may be considering selling a big stake in its Lehman Brothers investment bank, but the company said that its policy is not to comment on market speculation or rumors. American Express rose 1 1/4 to close at 23 1/8 and was among the most active issues.
Volume on the New York Stock Exchange was 265.9 million, up from 200.4 million shares Monday.