* Indexes up: Dow 0.3 pct, S&P 0.2 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct
* Dow hits another intraday record high
* Initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, March 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher for a fifth day on Thursday, with the Dow hitting an intraday record for the third session in a row, as data pointed to a pick-up in the labor market recovery and investors looked for opportunities to buy into the recent rally.
Growth sectors showed the most gains, with the S&P financial index up 0.6 percent and shares of JPMorgan Chase up 1.1 percent at $50.60.
The Dow climbed as high as 14,354.69 after initially breaking into uncharted territory on Tuesday. The broader S&P 500 sits more than 1 percent below its record close.
A strengthening economy and loose monetary policy by central banks around the world have pushed U.S. stocks higher this year. Investors have kept buying into the market since Tuesday’s rally, but gains have been more subdued.
“Equity markets have had a pretty significant advance over the past several months since bottoming in November. Despite generally positive market internals, there’s some worry about jumping into the market at this levels,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist, RDM Financial, Westport, Connecticut.
The economy is improving but growth is sluggish, Washington continues to debate the path of fiscal policy, and risks remain from the euro zone debt crisis.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 46.99 points, or 0.33 percent, at 14,343.23. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 2.84 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,544.30, its fifth day of gains. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 5.74 points, or 0.18 percent, at 3,228.11.
The latest economic data was encouraging, as the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 340,000. It was the second straight week of declines.
Investor attention will remain on the labor market ahead of Friday’s non-farm payroll report, which is expected to show the economy added 160,000 jobs in February. While it has been a soft spot in the economic recovery, the labor market is seen as healing slowly.
Network equipment maker Ciena jumped 16.3 percent to $17.37 after it reported a smaller quarterly loss.
Teen apparel retailer Hot Topic Inc said it will be bought by private equity firm Sycamore Partners for about $600 million. Shares surged 29 percent to $13.87