Dow's Fear of Heights

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NEW YORK: The next big milestone was supposed to come this week. CNBC was breathlessly touting 150 minutes of "Dow 9000" coverage -- set to roll at 4:30 on the day it happened. The index had chugged upwards almost uninterrupted for the past two weeks and on Wednesday came to within 41 points of the mark. And then, as in some Wile E. Coyote cartoon, someone handed the soaring Dow an anvil.

"The air was just getting thin," said said Alfred E. Goldman, director of market analysis at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. Wednesday. "Why not get some profit-taking after what we've done in the last 11 weeks?" FORTUNE Writer Nelson Schwartz agreed: After a hike in the index of 2200 in two months and some 300 points last week alone, the 9000 milestone is reminding investors to count their blessings. "People can't believe how much it's gone up," he said. "And they suddenly remembered that the market can go down, as well as up."

Not that Schwartz expects these few days to be any more than a short breather. "The amazing thing has been how resilient stocks like Intel and 3Com have been, even after disappointing earnings reports," he says. "As long as interest rates stay put, the appetite for stocks could remain boundless."