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NEW YORK — The Dow Jones Industrial Average reached another milestone Tuesday, recording its longest winning streak since 1996.

The index rose for the 10th straight day, gaining 83.86 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at a record 14,539.14.

The last time the Dow knocked out 10 straight days of gains was November 1996. Back then, Internet companies were still lining up to go public and President Bill Clinton had just won another term in the White House.

"It's just a good run," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the brokerage BTIG. "And it speaks to optimism about the future."

Encouraging news on jobs gave the market an early lift. Also, the Standard & Poor's 500 index on Thursday gained 8.71 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,563.23, and is now within 2 points of its record close set in October 2007.

All 10 industrial groups in the S&P 500 rose, led by energy companies.

The technology-driven Nasdaq composite rose 13.81, or 0.4 percent, to 3,258.93.

Signs that the economic recovery is gaining strength have propelled the market higher since the beginning of March.

Last month, the unemployment rate dipped to 7.7 percent, the lowest level since December 2008. Adding to evidence that the job market is improving, fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week.

Record corporate profits and reassurances from Federal Reserve officials that they plan to keep interests rates at low levels have also helped push stocks higher. U.S. retail spending increased in February at the fastest pace in five months. That came despite higher payroll taxes kicking in at the beginning of the year.

"We've been getting some really good economic statistics: jobless claims today and retail sales yesterday," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for ING U.S. Investment Management. "And that's positive."

The gains were broad on Thursday, though slight.

Analysts say the stock market's surge this year will likely persuade more people to move cash into stocks. The Dow is up 11 percent this year, and the S&P 500 is up 9.6 percent.

So far, retail investors appear unsure. They put money in U.S. stock funds to start the year, but have withdrawn it for the last two weeks, according to a report out Wednesday from the Investment Company Institute.

The rally may have pushed the Dow to record highs, but skeptics caution that markets take sudden turns. Exactly one year ago, for instance, the Dow had already raced up 8 percent. But by June, all those gains were gone.

.'Strengthening in labor market'

Jobless claims keep dropping

Fewer Americans sought unemployment aid last week, reducing the average number of weekly applications last month to a five-year low. The drop shows that fewer layoffs are strengthening the job market. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications fell 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 332,000. That reduced the four-week average to 346,750, the lowest since the week of March 8, 2008, three months after the Great Recession began. The report "provides further evidence of a gradual strengthening in labor market conditions," Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note to clients.

Other Dow streaks of 10 days or more

• Dow rises for 10 consecutive days ending Nov. 15, 1996.

• Dow rises for 11 consecutive days ending Jan. 3, 1992.

• Dow rises for 13 consecutive days ending Jan. 20, 1987

• Dow's longest winning streak was 14 days, ending June 14, 1897

Container hed Xj Xjj 03/14/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 14, 2013 8:02pm]
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