* Jobless claims unexpectedly fall, down for third week
* Energy shares boost market; eBay rises after upgrade
* Dow up 0.5 pct; S&P 500 up 0.4 pct; Nasdaq up 0.3 pct
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) - The Dow Jones industrial average extended its recent winning streak to 10 days and the S&P 500 closed in on a record high on Thursday as investors were encouraged by data that showed the labor market’s recovery was improving.
By late afternoon trade, 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 rise since the start of the year, driven by improvement in the economy and the Federal Reserve’s continued easy monetary policy.
“It’s simply a natural progression for prices to move to new highs in order for the market to advance. I don’t think it’s scaring investors,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.
“Fund flows really have reversed direction, and money started moving out of money markets and some from fixed income to equities. This kind of trend doesn’t change easily so we can expect a lot more to come in.”
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 64.89 points, or 0.45 percent, at 14,520.17. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 6.57 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,561.09. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.27 points, or 0.32 percent, at 3,255.39.
Earlier in the session, the Dow reached yet another lifetime intraday high - at 14,528.79.
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 late afternoon trading, IBM was at $215.53, up 1.6 percent from Wednesday’s close.
Energy shares led the Dow and the S&P 500 higher, with the S&P energy sector index gaining 1.2 percent. Chevron was among the Dow’s biggest percentage gainers, rising 1.4 percent to $119.99, after earlier hitting a fresh 52-week intraday high of $120.26.
Shares of eBay, operator of one of the largest online marketplaces, climbed 1.6 percent to $51.80 after Evercore Partners raised its rating to “overweight.”
But on the downside, shares of Amazon, the world’s biggest Internet retailer, fell 3.1 percent to $266.46 after JPMorgan cut its rating on the stock to “neutral” from “overweight” and lowered its price target to $300 from $333.
E*Trade shares lost 8 percent to $10.88 after Citadel LLC, its largest investor, said it is selling its entire stake in the discount brokerage and bank company.