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Stocks Soar; Cold Seen Damaging Citrus Crop

January 21, 1985

Undated (AP) _ Stock prices soared Monday and some market averages hit record highs amid increasing optimism about the 1985 economic outlook.

But pessimism pervaded the northern section of Florida’s $1 billion citrus belt, where a cold snap froze oranges ″as hard as baseballs″ and may have destroyed thousands of trees.

″It looks like the damage will be extensive in both citrus and vegetables,″ said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Doyle Conner.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones average of 30 industrial stocks jumped 34.01 points to 1,261.37 for its eighth best showing ever, putting the average at its highest level in more than a year.

Two other prominent indicators topped their previous peaks, established in October of that year.

The NYSE’s 65-stock composite index climbed 2.08 to 101.12, closing above 100 for the first time. And Standard & Poor’s 500-stock composite index gained 3.91 to a record 175.23.

Big Board volume totaled 146.83 million shares, against 104.72 million in the previous session.

Brokers said there was no single news event that set off the buying outburst. They found nothing particularly surprising in President Reagan’s inaugural remarks, although the Wall Street rally was at least a happy coincidence for the White House at the start of Reagan’s second term.

However, the mood of investors had been improving steadily of late, especially since Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker recently made an uncharacteristically upbeat appraisal of prospects for keeping inflation at bay, analysts said.

The market even had the outcome of the Super Bowl going its way. Under a whimsical theory that has enjoyed much publicity in recent years, a victory in the pro football championship by a National Football Conference team such as the San Francisco 49ers, who defeated the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, is supposed to be a favorable portent for stock prices.

The Dolphins’ loss was the least of concerns for Florida’s citrus belt, however.

One grower reported a low of 11 degrees in a citrus grove near Mascotte. Temperatures ranged from that into the 20s and 30s in southern sections and growers expected crop-killing temperatures in the teens again overnight into Tuesday.

″One more night like this could pretty well wipe us all out up here,″ said grower Duke Crittenden, who owns 4,000 acres of citrus, much of it in the northern tier heavily hit by a 1983 Christmas freeze.

That two-day cold spell caused more than $1 billion in tree and fruit losses, according to industry economists. Preliminary damage estimates on the latest disaster may begin to come in at the end of the week.

The state’s large winter vegetable industry escaped with little damage Sunday night and Monday, but also could be in trouble with another night of frost, an industry spokesman said.

The cold also affected tourism, Florida’s other major industry. South Florida beaches, normally a sunny haven from northern winters, were virtually deserted Monday as brisk wind made seaside temperatures seem even colder.

In other developments:

-The dollar rose in U.S. trading after slipping in Europe. Traders said the dollar was bolstered by the bullish economic expectations that lifted stock prices. But currency trading was quiet because most banks in New York were closed for the state’s observance of the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

-U.S. steel production in the week ended Jan. 19 edged up 1.2 percent from the previous week, to 1.550 million tons from 1.531 million tons, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported.