Over the long haul, stock markets head higher, but the path is rarely smooth. In October 2007, the Dow hit its previous high of 14,164. A year later, the country was in the middle of a financial crisis and the Dow was in free fall. In January 1987, the Dow closed above 2,000 for the first time, then hit a record of 2,722 in August. Two months later, the Dow had plunged 36 percent from its peak, including a huge drop on Black Monday.
That hardly means the market is about to take another plunge. Analysts point to other reasons, besides the poor returns offered by bonds, that the stock market could continue climbing: the economy is slowly recovering, interest rates and inflation are low, and stocks are not especially expensive. The 30 companies in the Dow trade for 15 times their per-share earnings in 2012, in line with their historical average.
Among other companies making big moves:
— Staples sank 7 percent after the office-supply chain posted a 72 percent drop in quarterly earnings. The company was hit by charges from closing stores. Staples also warned of weaker sales growth this year. Staples dropped 95 cents to $12.34.
— Strong quarterly profits propelled Big Lots up 6 percent. The discount store posted better earnings than analysts had projected, helped by soaring sales in Canada. Big Lots rose $2.08 to $35.97.
— American Eagle Outfitters fell 10 percent after the clothing retailer reported earnings that fell short of analysts' estimates. Its quarterly earnings forecast also fell short, and the company's stock dropped $2.28 to $20.27.