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DOW CLOSES AT 11-MONTH HIGH

NEW YORK - Investors poured money into stocks for a fifth day after a drop in weekly unemployment claims and a spike in oil raised hopes for the economy. Falling interest rates on Treasury securities also fed demand for stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 80 points Thursday to its highest close since October. The index is up 347 points in five days, its longest winning streak since fall.

The gains have come even as analysts say the market is overdue for a retreat. The latest push higher followed the Labor Department's report that jobless claims fell more than expected to 550,000 last week. A jump in oil lifted energy companies, and an upbeat forecast from consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co. added to enthusiasm about a recovery.

Momentum grew in midafternoon as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told a congressional panel that confidence and stability were returning to the economy after the panic that began a year ago.

David Bianco, chief U.S. equity strategist at Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch in New York, said the rally has merit because stocks had tumbled so far since their peak. The S&P 500 index was down 56.8 percent by early March.

Ralph Fogel of Fogel Neale Partners in New York argues that too many analysts are now expecting a pullback for it to actually happen. He pointed to a well-tested piece of Wall Street wisdom that if a certain prediction becomes too widely expected in the marketplace, that conclusion is often wrong.

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