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Dow Rallies for 8th Day, Led by Boeing

The Dow rose for an eighth straight day, ending near session highs after a late rally. Industrials led the way, with Boeing and 3M at the top of the Dow.

The blue-chip index had opened higher after beats on both Philly Fed and jobless claims and as the CPI report showed inflation was essentially non-existent, but lost steam midday as the dollar gained, before the late rally brought its winning streak to eight.

The Dow gained 45.50, or 0.4 percent, to close at 10,779.17. led by Boeing , after an analyst upgrade on the stock, and 3M.

The Dow gained 2.2 percent in the eight-day streak, its longest since August 2009.

Volume remained low, with just 7.7 billion shares changing hands on the three major exchanges today, amid quadruple witching this week, which is the expiration of four key futures and options contracts.

Bank of America and Alcoa led the Dow's decliners.

The dollar rose against the euroafter Greece's prime minister warned the government won't be able to make budget cuts unless it can borrow money cheaply. Plus, there's buzz that Greece may soon ask the IMF for financial aid.

Oil settled near $82 a barrel, while gold rose about $3 to settle around $1,127 an ounce.

This came after the Dow rose for a seventh straight session, closing at its highest level since 2008, as a renewed pledge from the Fed for low rates and a drop in inflation at the producer level helped fuel the market's momentum. Volume has been lower, however, as today and tomorrow brings "quadruple witching," the expiration of four types of options and futures contracts.

The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000, slightly beating a consensus estimate of economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

At the same time, the Commerce Department said consumer prices remained flat as the wobbly economy prevented the ability of companies to charge more for their products.

As for the 10am numbers: The Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index rose to 18.9, higher than expected, from 17.6 last month. Leading indicators rose for an 11th straight month. And mortgage rates were flat last week, with the 30-year fixed holding below 5 percent.

Boeing shares gained 2.2 percent, closing at their highest level since June 2008, after Bernstein Research said the company's 787 program "appears to be making substantial progress."

Shares of Federal Express rebounded, ending up more than 3 percent, after taking quite a hit this morning as investors appeared to "sell the news." The economic bellwether beat on earningsand reported its revenue rose 7 percent.

Rival UPS gained over 2 percent and the Dow Jones transport index advanced 1 percent.

Nike shares jumped over 5 percent after the athletic gear maker late Wednesday reported expectations that vastly exceeded Wall Street estimates.

Hand-held gadget maker Palm rose 5 percent in regular trading ahead of its earnings report but fell more than 10 percentin after-hours trading amid disappointment in its results.

Google shares ticked higher following news that the Internet giant has teamed up with Intel and Sony for "Google TV,"a new platform for bringing the Web to television sets.

Chip stocks finished lower, with Intel down 0.2 percent and AMD down over 2 percent, after Macquarie Equities started coverage of the sector with a "neutral" rating, expecting to see a peak in the next few years.

Banks finished mostly lower, following a selloff in the sector in Europe, amid worries about Greece's debt situation. Bank of America lost 1.1 percent and Regions Financial lost 2.6 percent.

Ford continued to rise, after surging to a five-year highabove $14on Wednesday, after Moody's upgraded its debt rating on Ford and said the automaker had potential to improve its finances even further.

Elsewhere, regional bank Sandy Spring Bancorp shares tumbled after a share offering was priced at a discount.

Four Fed speakers — Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke, Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto, Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig, and Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker — today backed Chairman Bernanke's defense of the central bank's role in regulating small banks amid a clause in Congress' financial-reform bill that would shift that responsibility to other regulators.

Bernanke had said the insight they gleaned from that role helped shape monetary policy. Today, the Fed members said ending that role would cut a link between the central bank and the nation's heartland.

Still to Come:

THURSDAY: March Madness begins; Earnings from Palm after the bell
FRIDAY: Quadruple witching; S&P index rebalancing

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.