Stocks Surge Higher, Setting Dow Record

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged Wednesday to strengthen its record status, aided by Microsoft’s advance as the company took a strong stance against piracy, although General Motors ended with a tiny loss as an automaker alliance seemingly slipped away. Among non-Dow members, a sales report from Panera Bread offered encouragement about the economy and investors were enthusiastic about Shaw Group’s new purchase plan.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 123.27, or 1.05%, to 11850.61, its biggest gain since mid-August, as 27 of 30 members rose.The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 47.30, or 2.11%, to 2290.95, close to a five-month high. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index advanced 16.11, or 1.21, to 1350.22, its highest level in five-and-a-half years.

“Although he also spoke about inflation, the equity market liked (Federal Reserve Chairman) Ben Bernanke’s comments about the substantial slowdown in housing, because it could bode well for those expecting interest rate cuts to come sooner,” said Brian Rauscher, head of portfolio strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman. “He also stated that the economy was relatively strong, which could really cause stocks to rally because that’s a plus for corporate profits.”

Microsoft (Nasdaq) gained 57 cents, or 2.1%, to 27.94. The software titan’s new Windows Vista operating system will cripple the usefulness of computers found to be running unlicensed copies of the new software, as the company attempts to prevent piracy that has followed the release of previous versions of its operating system.

General Motors lost 9 cents to 33.32, which was actually a recovery since the stock at its lowest level was down 1.24, or 3.7%.

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