US STOCKS-Dow gains for 8th straight day; Palm sinks late

* Philadelphia Fed index rises, but new orders decelerate

* CPI unchanged in February; initial jobless claims fall

* Eighth straight day of gains for Dow industrials

* Dow up 0.4 pct, S&P down 0.03 pct, Nasdaq up 0.09 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news, click [STXNEWS/US]
(Updates with Palm shares falling after the bell)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, March 18 (BestGrowthStock) – The Dow industrials rose
for an eighth consecutive session on Thursday, lifted by a
rise in Boeing’s stock, while a mixed group of economic
figures kept the broader S&P 500 in check.

The Dow’s gains came even though more stocks declined than
advanced on the broad New York Stock Exchange and on a lower
volume day in terms of trading, one day before the expiration
of quarterly futures and options.

Boeing (BA.N: ), up 2.2 percent at $70.87, gave the Dow its
biggest boost after Bernstein Research said the 787 program
“appears to be making substantial progress.” Boeing, which
marked its highest close since late June 2008, is the Dow’s
best-performing stock so far this year.

“The volume is low again, the market hangs in there,
(there’s) no volatility,” said Todd Leone, head of listed
trading at Cowen & Co. in New York

“The market just can’t get going (in either direction) and
so we just slowly move up.”

Economic data was mildly supportive. The Philadelphia
Federal Reserve Bank’s index showed factory activity expanded
more than expected in March, although new orders fell.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: ) gained 45.50
points, or 0.42 percent, to end at 10,779.17. The Standard &
Poor’s 500 Index (.SPX: ) dipped 0.38 point, or 0.03 percent, to
1,165.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: ) gained 2.19
points, or 0.09 percent, to close at 2,391.28.

The Dow’s eight-session winning streak is the longest
since an eight-day string of gains that ended Aug. 27, 2009.

PALM PLUNGES AFTER BELL

After the bell, Palm Inc (PALM.O: ) delivered news that
might weigh on technology shares on Friday, forecasting
sharply lower-than- expected revenue in the fiscal fourth
quarter on dismal smartphone sales. [ID:nN18254531]

Shares of Palm, which has exposure to both consumers and
businesses, dropped 13.5 percent to $4.89 after the bell. In
regular Nasdaq trading, the stock rose 5.2 percent to $5.65.

During the regular session, FedEx Corp (FDX.N: ), advanced
3.2 percent to $92.67 after the world’s largest package
delivery company posted a sharply higher quarterly profit that
beat Wall Street’s estimate. [ID:nN1799848]

United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N: ), a FedEx rival, climbed
2.5 percent to $64.42. The Dow Jones Transportation Average
(.DJT: ), which includes both FedEx and UPS, gained 1 percent.

DRILLERS SLUMP, NIKE JUMPS

Oil service companies’ shares dropped after UBS cut its
price target on 11 drillers and oil service companies while
also removing its “short-term buy” rating on Nabors Industries
Ltd (NBR.N: ) and Helmerich & Payne Inc (HP.N: ).

Nabors shares lost 4.8 percent to $20.63 and Helmerich
slid 5.3 percent to $38.88. The PHLX Oil Service Sector index
(.OSX: ) dropped 2.8 percent.

Both Nike Inc (NKE.N: ) and GameStop (GME.N: ) rallied after
reporting results. Nike’s stock climbed 5.3 percent to $74.66,
a day after the largest global sports gear maker reported a
third-quarter profit (Read more your timing to make a profit.) that beat expectations. GameStop shares
jumped 6.6 percent to $21.16 after the video-game retailer
forecast full-year sales growth of 4 percent to 6 percent.
[ID:nN17163859] and [ID:nN18218086]

But Intel Corp (INTC.O: ) slipped 0.2 percent to $22.20, as
chip stocks limited the Nasdaq’s gain. Macquarie Equities
Research started coverage of the stock and the semiconductor
sector with a “neutral” rating, expecting utilization rates
for the chip arena to peak in the next one or two quarters.
[ID:nSGE62H0HF]

The PHLX Semiconductor index (.SOXX: ) shed 0.7 percent.

HEALTH INSURERS CLIMB

Health insurers’ shares gained on the day as the U.S.
House of Representatives appear to be on track to vote on the
healthcare reform bill on Sunday, offering the prospect of
removing some uncertainty for investors. [ID:nHEALTH] and
[ID:nN1898153]

The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index (.HMO: ) rose 3.1
percent.

In other economic news, the Labor Department said consumer
prices were flat in February, reinforcing the Federal
Reserve’s commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate low
for a while. A separate report showed a dip in new claims for
jobless benefits in the latest week. For details on the data,
see [ID:nN18215395]

Volume has been thin ahead of key options expirations on
Thursday and Friday, when four different types of options and
futures contracts expire in a convergence known as “quadruple
witching.”

About 7.66 billion shares traded on the New York Stock
Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last
year’s estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by
a ratio of about 3 to 2. On the Nasdaq, about 15 stocks fell
for every 11 that rose.

Penny Stocks
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Additional reporting by
Angela Moon; Editing by Jan Paschal )

US STOCKS-Dow gains for 8th straight day; Palm sinks late