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US STOCKS-Wall St rises, Dow on track for 6th straight day of gains

Ryan Vlastelica
Thursday, 26 Dec 2013 | 10:10 AM ET

* Dow coming off record close, on track for 6th straight gain

* Jobless claims fall more than expected in latest week

* T-Mobile rises, sources say SoftBank in talks to buy

* Indexes up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.3 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct

NEW YORK, Dec 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, putting the Dow on track for a sixth straight day of gains, although trading was expected to be light following the Christmas holiday.

In a positive sign for economic growth, initial jobless claims dropped by 42,000 in the latest week, dropping to 338,000. Analysts had expected 345,000.

Thursday is the first full day of trading since Monday, following an early close on Tuesday and Wednesday's Christmas holiday. Volume has been anemic this week with many traders away, a fact that could amplify market volatility.

Nevertheless, markets' recent upward bias continued, with the Dow on track for its longest winning streak since March. Both the Dow and S&P 500 closed at record highs on Tuesday.

"There's nothing to drive markets decisively higher other than continued momentum, but I don't see that stopping. It has been a long time since we've had such an absence of headwinds," said Pete Benson, partner of Beacon Capital Management.

Among the most active stocks was T-Mobile US Inc, which rose 1 percent to $32.52 after sources close to the matter told Reuters that Japan's SoftBank Corp was in talks to buy the company.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 60.72 points, or 0.37 percent, at 16,418.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.68 points, or 0.26 percent, at 1,838.00. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.60 points, or 0.26 percent, at 4,166.02.

The S&P 500 has soared almost 29 percent this year, largely due to stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The index is on track for its best year since 1997. The Dow is up 25.2 percent in 2013 while the Nasdaq has jumped about 38 percent.

United Parcel Service on Tuesday said poor weather and a high volume of holiday packages delayed the arrival of Christmas presents around the world. Amazon.com Inc offered compensation to affected customers with shipping refunds and $20 gift cards.

Shares of UPS dipped 0.3 percent to $104.14 while Amazon was little changed.

In another black eye for the retail industry, the hackers who attacked Target Corp and compromised up to 40 million credit cards and debit cards also managed to steal encrypted personal identification numbers, a senior payments executive told Reuters. Shares of the department store chain rose 0.8 percent to $62.21.