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STOCKS CAP ANOTHER BANNER YEAR WITH MORE RECORDS

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange cheered and threw confetti in the air as the Nasdaq Composite Index, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor's 500 Index finished the '90s with record gains.

Stocks ended a blockbuster year by setting a full slate of records Friday. A rally that capped an unprecedented fifth straight year of double-digit gains gathered momentum amid growing confidence that the Year 2000 will cause no major troubles in the world's financial markets.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 44.26 to close at 11,497.12. The previous record of 11,484.66 was set Wednesday.

Broader stock indicators also climbed to new highs in the quiet, abbreviated New Year's Eve session that ended at 1 p.m. EST.

The Nasdaq composite index rose 32.44 to 4,069.31 and the Standard & Poor's 500 rose 4.78 to 1,469.25. The Russell 2000, a small-company index that slumped badly for most of the year, continued its resurgence, rising 8.16 to close at a record 504.75.

The string of new highs ended a remarkable year on Wall Street, which saw stock market indicators defy all predictions of modest, single-digit returns. Gains for the year came to 25.2 percent for the Dow, 85.6 percent for Nasdaq and 19.5 percent for the S&P 500.

Seven stocks rose for every three that fell on the NYSE, where floor traders, some in tuxedos, leaned against their posts and wished each other well for the New Year. It was the broadest advance on the Big Board since Oct. 28.

Friday's rally occurred on extremely light volume as many Wall Street players started their New Year's weekend early. Those who were present were initially anxious to evaluate any impact of the Year 2000 computer conversion before resuming active trading.

But early indications were positive, with Japan, South Korea and Australia reporting no major disruptions as the new year rolled in. That helped investors gain confidence that financial markets in the United States and Europe will enter the new millennium unscathed by computer malfunctions, analysts said.

U.S. markets were unperturbed by the latest political shock from Russia. President Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, elevating Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the presidency at least until elections are held in 90 days.

Russian investors celebrated the change, sending the stock market to a 15-month high before trading closed early because volume had exceeded daily limits.

Vimpel, a Russian telecommunications company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange, rose 11 to 44 5/8 . The Templeton Russia Fund, which invests primarily in Russian companies, gained 5 3/1 6 to 19 1 5/1 6.

With little domestic news to move U.S. markets, investors bought the stocks that have dominated trading all year long. Qualcomm gained 14 3/8 to 176 1/8 in the first day of trading following a 4-for-1 stock split.

Home Depot, which joined the Dow Jones industrials this fall, rose 1 6 1/6 4 to 68 3/4 . A 3-for-2 stock split took effect Friday.

Alcoa rose 2 7/1 6 to 83, a high for the year. Alcoa was the Dow's strongest performer in 1999, defying a trend toward upstart technology companies and finishing the year with a 125 percent gain.

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