The report of a 0.5 percent inflation increase during March helped to trigger heavy trading on the stock market, allowing several market barometers to post their highest closing levels since the 1987 crash.

The March rise in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index, reported Tuesday, amounted to an annual inflation rate of 6.1 percent for both the month and for the first quarter of the year - the largest quarterly CPI increase since skyrocketing energy costs caused a 6.3 percent rise in the first three months of 1987.Still, financial markets were relieved consumer prices did not appear to be heading for double-digit increases. Stock prices shot up Tuesday with the Dow Jones industrial average closing up 41.61 at 2,379.40, its highest level since the market's Oct. 19, 1987, crash.

Broader-market indicators also set post-crash closing highs. The New York Stock Exchange composite index climbed 2.08 to 171.13 and Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 4.30 to 306.02. The price of an average share added 42 cents.

European stock markets took heart from Wall Street's gains and moved sharply higher Wednesday, dealers said. London's 100-share FTSE index was 16.6 points higher at 2,091, and Swiss shares also firmed.

The dollar edged higher in European trading. Crude oil prices soared in active Asian trading Wednesday after a North Sea oil rig explosion Tuesday halted production of more than a quarter of Britain's oil output. Gold opened in London at $383.45 an ounce, virtually unchanged from Tuesday's finish.