NEW YORK (CNNfn) - A powerful rally, which at one point lifted the Dow to within 65 points of 10,000 Thursday, ended off its highs on Wall Street but left market bulls unfazed and ready to attack the milestone again within days.
After rocketing up nearly 163 points, then falling sharply from its highs, the Dow Jones industrial average recovered in the last half hour of trading to close 124.60 points, or 1.3 percent, higher at 9,897.44. The blue chip index has climbed nearly 600 points, or 6.45 percent, since last Wednesday's close.
"It's probably just a matter of time before we hit Dow 10,000. It's just a stone's throw away," said Alan Skrainka, chief market strategist at Edward Jones. (223K WAV) or (223K AIFF)
On the New York Stock Exchange, advances beat declines 1,679 to 1,320, as a hefty 910 million shares changed hands.
The Nasdaq Composite closed 6.24 points higher at 2,412.24. The S&P 500 index finished up 10.74 at 1,297.58, also setting a record.
Thursday's rally came on the back of a rebound in world oil prices, but it was underpinned by the stellar health of the U.S. economy -- which in its ninth year of expansion is still generating strong employment growth, rising productivity and consumer demand, yet showing almost no signs of inflation.
Robert Stovall, president of Stovall 21st Advisers, said the Dow will get up to 10,000 within a matter of days.
"It's more than a number," Stovall said. "It's a very important emotional number. Dow 10,000 is something that we hardly dreamed of as recently as five years ago."
The bond market fell as the strength in stocks steered investors away from debt issues and a weakened dollar added pressure. The benchmark 30-year Treasury bond finished 4/32 of a point lower in price, for a yield of 5.56 percent.
The dollar tumbled against the euro after the sudden resignation of German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine. The dollar also eased against the yen.
Oil moves to the front burner
Oil stocks, largely responsible for the Dow's advance to a new record Wednesday, once again took the leadership in the market, charging higher as world oil prices continued to rise.
Oil markets, which have suffered severe declines over the past year, have seen a strong rebound this week amid speculation that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will cut production when it meets later this month. Premier OPEC members, including Gulf Arab states, as well as Mexico, a non-OPEC oil producer, are said to be supporting output cuts.
Among the Dow components, shares of Chevron (CHV) climbed 1-13/16 to 85-1/15 and Exxon (XON) gained 1-7/16 to 74-3/4. Exxon's merger partner Mobil (MOB) jumped 3-3/16 to 94-9/16.
Elsewhere in the sector, BP Amoco (BPA) rallied 2-13/16 to 95-15/16 and Phillips Petroleum (P) advanced 1-7/8 to 43-7/8 amid speculation the company may be a takeover target.
Still, analysts were skeptical about the longevity of the oil rally.
"If in fact the OPEC countries can get together and cut supply, that would be great," said Patricia Chadwick, director of U.S. equities at Invesco. "I think what tends to happen is when we hear these kinds of announcements, oil stocks do extremely well, and yet the truth is somewhat a little less exciting than what the announcement comes out as. But I think definitely they need to cut supply -- there is a glut of oil around, and anything they can do should help the oil stocks."
Technology turns shaky
The tech sector followed the broad market rally in the morning, but showed signs of uncertainty later in the day.
Shares of 3Com (COMS) rose 1-1/2 to 26-1/8 on news the company is teaming up with Microsoft (MSFT) to develop home networking products.
Microsoft trimmed its early gains to close 1/16 higher at 161-7/16. Late in the day the software powerhouse announced it would hold an evening conference call with analysts to discuss its fiscal third-quarter financial performance, as well as accounting issues related to its Office 2000 software suite.
Most other high-tech leaders also came off their highs, with Dow member IBM (IBM) up 1-3/8 to 182-7/8, Intel (INTC) up 1-1/4 to 118-1/8 and Cisco Systems (CSCO) up 1-1/8 to 105-1/2. Dell Computer (DELL), which never joined Thursday's rally, slid 1-7/16 to 41-7/8.
Yahoo! (YHOO) gained 5-3/8 to 179 on news it had reached a deal with German telecommunications conglomerate Mannesmann to provide Internet services to Germans via Mannesmann phone lines.
And shares of online service provider America Online (AOL) gained 3-1/8 to 95-15/16 on news regional phone service provider SBC Communications (SBC) will provide high-speed access to AOL in seven states by year-end.
Transportation slows down
The rising cost of oil hit home in the transportation sector, taking the Dow transports index down 30.75 to 3,257.65.
Major airline stocks took hits, hurt by the prospects of costlier business but cushioned by the robust state of the U.S. economy, which should mean more business. American Airlines parent AMR (AMR) slipped 1-1/8 to 56, Delta Air Lines (DAL) fell 2-1/2 to 60-1/2 and United Airlines parent UAL (UAL) closed down 1/2 to 65.
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-- by staff writer Malina Poshtova Zang