updated 3/18/2010 6:17:11 PM ET 2010-03-18T22:17:11

Major stock indexes ended mixed Thursday on more evidence that the economy is regaining strength at a slow pace.

Major Market Indices

The Dow Jones industrial average rose for an eighth straight day, its longest unbroken climb since August. The Dow gained 46 points while broader indexes were little changed.

Reports indicated that inflation remains in check and manufacturing is growing. The government said, however, that first-time claims for unemployment benefits only inched lower.

The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index was unchanged in February and that initial jobless claims fell last week. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve said manufacturing in its region increased this month. The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading indicators rose at a slow pace last month.

"The market has been grinding higher on what has been benignly positive news," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist for RidgeWorth Investments. "There is a growing sense the economy is plodding along in the right direction."

Renewed concern about economic troubles in Greece kept the gains in check. The country said it might turn to the International Monetary Fund for support if European leaders can't agree to a bailout plan next week.

Stocks have been in a steady climb for about five weeks as economic reports signal the economy is seeing modest improvement.

The Dow rose 45.50, or 0.4 percent, to 10,779.17. That marks the highest close since Oct. 1, 2008. The Dow last rose for eight straight days in the period ended Aug. 27.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.38, or less than 0.1 percent, to 1,165.83, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 2.19, or 0.1 percent, to 2,391.28.

Bond prices fell and yields rose following the economic reports. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.68 percent from 3.64 percent late Wednesday.

The dollar rose against other major currencies. Gold rose.

Crude oil fell 73 cents to settle at $82.20 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Labor Department's Consumer Price Index was flat. Excluding volatile energy and food prices, it rose 0.1 percent. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast an increase of 0.1 percent in both measures of inflation. On Wednesday, the government said that wholesale prices barely rose in February.

The Federal Reserve repeated this week that it expects inflation to remain low. That would allow the central bank to keep interest rates low to help revive lending and boost the economy.

The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000 last week. Although the drop was short of expectations, it was the third straight weekly slide. A four-week average of claims is up by 30,000 since the beginning of the year.

Initial claims have hovered around 450,000 in recent weeks, which Gayle called a "tipping point" between employers adding or cutting jobs.

Companies like 3M Co. got a boost from the Philadelphia Fed's report that manufacturing expanded in the Mid-Atlantic region for the seventh straight month in March. However, a drop in new orders signaled growth could slow.

The Conference Board's index of leading indicators rose 0.1 percent in February. That matched expectations but the increase in the gauge of future economic activity was the smallest in 11 months.

The concerns about Greece brought a reminder that the calm can be interrupted.

"That's why you're seeing a little bit of resistance," said Greg Merlino, president of Ameriway Financial Services. "Whenever we hear Greece, we get this knee-jerk reaction, is this the first domino to fall?"

Improved earnings reports gave the market some support.

FedEx Corp. said its fiscal third-quarter profit more than doubled. It also raised its full-year earnings forecast, which is now in line with analysts' expectations.

FedEx is considered a measure for the health of the overall economy because of the variety of products it ships. The stock rose $2.87, or 3.2 percent, to $92.67.

3M rose $1.49, or 1.8 percent, to $83.67.

Three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume fell to 4.3 billion shares from 5 billion Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 2.37, or 0.4 percent, to 681.61.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 fell less than 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX index dropped 0.2 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.5 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 1 percent.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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