US STOCKS-Dow advances for 10th day, S&P 500 eyes record

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 14, 2013 17:40 hrs

* Jobless claims unexpectedly fall, down for third week

* Energy shares boost market; eBay rises after upgrade

* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P 500 up 0.4 pct, Nasdaq up 0.3 pct

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday as the Dow extended its recent winning streak to 10 days and the S&P 500 closed in on a record high as investors were encouraged by data that showed the labor market's recovery was gaining traction.

On an intraday basis, the S&P 500 was less than 5 points away from its closing peak of 1,565.15, following in the footsteps of the 30-stock Dow Jones industrial average, which has been setting record highs since last week.

The Dow was on track for its 10th day in a row of gains, which would match a string of advances last seen in late 1996. U.S. equities have accelerated their advance since the start of the year, driven by improvement in the economy and the Federal Reserve's continued easy monetary policy.

Some of the skepticism over how far the market can rally has faded, said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St Louis. Worries that stocks could be derailed by headwinds such as a flare-up in the euro-zone debt crisis or the large U.S. government spending cuts that have come into effect have so far not come to pass.

"Many of those worries have at least temporarily abated, and that's also providing a catalyst that the skeptics are beginning to say, 'Maybe the news isn't as bad as we thought,'" Warne said.

Three months into the year, the Dow has shot up more than 10 percent, while the S&P 500 has gained 9 percent.

Data on Thursday offered fresh signs of strength in the U.S. labor market as the number of filings for new unemployment benefits fell for the third week in a row.

The U.S. Producer Price Index rose in February by the most in five months as gasoline prices spiked, the Labor Department said in a separate report. There was, however, little sign of a broader increase in inflation pressures that could force the Fed to tighten monetary policy.

Ten of the Dow's 30 stocks hit at least 52-week highs on an intraday basis, while International Business Machines climbed to a record intraday high, rising 1.7 percent to $215.59. In early afternoon trading, IBM was at $214.86, up 1.3 percent from Wednesday's close.

Energy shares led the Dow and the S&P 500 higher, with the S&P energy sector index gaining 1.1 percent. Chevron was among the Dow's biggest percentage gainers, rising 1.5 percent to $120.13, not far below a fresh 52-week intraday high of $120.26.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 55.03 points, or 0.38 percent, to 14,510.31. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 5.86 points, or 0.38 percent, to 1,560.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 9.78 points, or 0.30 percent, to 3,254.89.

Earlier in the session, the Dow reached yet another lifetime intraday high - at 14,528.79.

Shares of eBay, operator of one of the largest online marketplaces, climbed 3 percent to $52.52 after Evercore Partners raised its rating to "overweight."

But on the downside, Amazon shares fell 2.6 percent to $268 after JPMorgan cut its rating on the stock to "neutral" from "overweight" and lowered its price target to $300 from $333.

Carnival Corp lost 0.8 percent to $35.44 after one of its Cruise Lines ships was stuck at port with equipment trouble.

E*Trade shares slid 7.3 percent to $10.96 after Citadel LLC, its largest investor, said it is selling its entire stake in the discount brokerage and bank company.

More from Sify: