* Dow up 0.3 pct, S&P 500 up 0.1 pct, Nasdaq up 0.1 pct
* Another intraday record high for the Dow
* Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks advanced on
Thursday, pushing the Dow to an intraday record for a third
session, as jobless claims data pointed to a pick-up in the
labor market's recovery and investors looked for opportunities
to buy into the recent rally.
Growth-oriented sectors led the day's gains. The S&P
financial index shot up 0.7 percent and hit an intraday
high. Shares of Dow component Bank of America rose 2.3
percent to $12.19.
Stocks rose for a fifth day, and the Dow climbed as high as
14,354.69 after initially breaking into uncharted territory on
Tuesday. The broader S&P 500 sits more than 1 percent below its
A strengthening economy and loose monetary policy by central
banks around the world have pushed U.S. stocks higher this year.
"The momentum behind the economy is also behind the stock
market right now," said Bryant Evans, portfolio manager at Cozad
Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois.
Investors have kept buying into the market since Tuesday's
rally, but gains have been more subdued.
Worries remain as Washington debates the path of fiscal
policy, the euro zone is not out of its crisis, and U.S.
economic growth is still slow.
"Right now, there is some concession that the strength of
the economy is going to overcome these rough patches," Evans
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 35.19 points,
or 0.25 percent, at 14,331.43. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 2.06 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,543.52, its
fifth day of gains. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up
4.41 points, or 0.14 percent, at 3,226.78.
The Dow is up 9.4 percent since Dec. 31, while the S&P 500
is up 8.2 percent.
The Russell 2000 Index, which measures the
performance of 2,000 U.S. small-cap companies, hit an intraday
record high in Thursday's session.
The Russell 1000 and the Russell 3000 also
climbed to record intraday highs in Thursday's session.
The latest economic data was encouraging, as the number of
Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly
fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000. It was the
second straight week of declines.
Investors will stay focused on the labor market ahead of
Friday's non-farm payrolls report, which is expected to show the
economy added 160,000 jobs in February. While it has been a soft
spot in the economic recovery, the labor market is seen as
In a separate report Thursday, the Commerce Department said
the U.S. international trade deficit widened more than expected
in January as crude oil imports rose and fuel oil exports fell.
In contrast, the department cut its estimate of the December
Network equipment maker Ciena jumped 16.4 percent
to $17.39 after it reported a smaller quarterly loss.
Teen apparel retailer Hot Topic Inc said it will be
bought by private equity firm Sycamore Partners for about $600
million. Shares surged 29.2 percent to $13.89.
On the down side, shares of PetSmart fell 7 percent
to $61.90 after the company's full-year profit forecast missed
analysts' estimates. At least two brokerages cut their price
targets on the retailer's stock.