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Third straight record high for Dow

Traders work on the floor of The New

Traders work on the floor of The New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan on Wednesday. (March 6, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Dow pushed further into record territory Thursday, having surpassed its previous all-time high two days ago. The catalyst was the latest evidence that hiring is picking up.

Stocks started higher after the Labor Department reported that the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell by 7,000 last week, driving the four-week average to its lowest in five years. The drop is a positive sign ahead of Friday's U.S. employment report.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.25 points to 14,329.49. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 0.18 percent to 1,544.26. The Nasdaq composite advanced 0.30 percent to 3,232.09.

The Dow barreled through a record high Tuesday and has added to its gains since then. The S&P 500 is also closing in on its own record high of 1,565, which was also reached on Oct. 9, 2007, the same day as the Dow's previous peak. The S&P would need to rise 21 points, or 1.3 percent, to set a record.

Investors have been buying stocks on optimism that employers are slowly starting to hire again and that the housing market is recovering. Growing company earnings are also encouraging investors to get into the market. The Dow is 9.4 percent higher this year; the broader S&P 500 is up 8.3 percent.

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