Dow's longest winning streak since '96

Trader Joseph Lawler, right, works on the floor Trader Joseph Lawler, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. The Commerce Department report Wednesday, the government's first peek into the mood of shoppers, is watched closely because consumer spending drives about 70 percent of economic activity in the United States. (March 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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The Dow Jones industrial average notched its ninth gain in a row Wednesday, giving the index its longest winning streak in more than 16 years.

The index edged up 5.22 points to 14,455.28. The Dow has risen every day this month and is up 10.3 percent this year, having surpassed its previous record of 14,164.53 March 5.

Demand for stocks has been propelled this year by optimism that the U.S. housing market is recovering and that companies have started to hire. Strong company earnings and ongoing stimulus from the Federal Reserve are also helping make stocks more attractive.

The Dow's last nine-day winning streak was logged in May 1996. In November of the same year, in the early days of the technology boom, it gained for 10 straight days.

Stocks overcame an early loss Wednesday, having edged lower at the start of the trading day despite an unexpectedly strong increase in U.S. consumer spending last month.

The failure of the market to rally directly after the report of higher consumer spending in February suggests that the bar has now risen for investors as stocks have rallied.

"As the market rises, so do expectations," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management.

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