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DOW FLIRTS WITH RECORD

Stocks were flirting with new highs again today after pulling back from an opening rally that inspired many investors to secure some gains from Tuesday's big advance.

At 3 p.m. the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 56.67 at 8,118.32, topping its record close of 8,068.61. In the morning, the blue-chip barometer briefly slipped into negative territory after surrendering an early 81-point gain.

Broad-market indicators also were modestly higher after retreating from what initially looked to be a continuation of Tuesday afternoon's rally, which was spurred by an encouraging assessment of the economy by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.

The Dow gained nearly 155 points on Tuesday after Greenspan delivered his midyear report to Congress without sparking any worries about interest rates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners today by a 7-to-5 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 506.68 million shares, up from Tuesday's late pace.

The NYSE composite index was up 3.04 at 486.93 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 6.12 at 1,569.98.

The Dow's strongest component was Boeing, which rose 2 1 1/1 6 to 59 1/1 6 amid news that the European Union endorsed the main points of the aerospace giant's $15 billion deal to merge with McDonnell Douglas. Boeing made some surprise concessions on Tuesday to appease the EU, which had threatened to veto the merger as a danger to free competition.

In earnings news, Dow component AlliedSignal met Wall Street forecasts with a 12 percent improvement in second-quarter profits. Its stock rose 1 to 92 3/1 6.

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