It came oh so close.
The Dow Jones industrial average came within 15 points of its all-time high Thursday afternoon. But the momentum petered out, and the Dow and other indexes broke a two-day winning streak and closed lower.
Economic data and company reports reflected an economy beating investors' low expectations, rather than one growing like gangbusters. Impending government budget cuts also cast a pall for some investors.
"There was no dramatic, great news," said Leon LaBrecque, CEO of LJPR in Troy, Mich. "There's no remarkable economic information. Earnings are pretty much mixed."
After gaining a combined 291 points on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Dow spent Thursday morning darting between small gains and losses.
It took a decisive turn upward in the early afternoon. Around 2:30 p.m. it hit 14,149 -- just 15 points from the Oct. 9, 2007, record of 14,164.53.
Then the rally sputtered, and stocks turned lower in the final few minutes of trading.
The Dow ended down 20.88 points to 14,054.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.09 percent to 1,514.68. The Nasdaq composite index edged down 0.07 percent to 3,160.19.