US STOCKS-Wall St inches up after 5-day run, claims data
* Initial jobless claims fall for fourth straight week
* Equity markets close at 1 p.m. in holiday-shortened session
* Indexes up: Dow 0.21 percent, S&P 0.13 pct, Nasdaq 0.2 pct (Updates to market open)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Wednesday, extending a five-day winning streak that pushed the Dow and S&P 500 to new closing records and on the latest piece of economic data indicating the U.S. economy is strengthening.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000, its fourth straight week of declines, and below the forecast of 290,000.
"Economic data has been consistently positive," said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York.
"We are positioned well into the close of the year and we have all sorts of validation that the economy, the corporate earnings story and markets are on the most solid footing they have been on in quite some time."
The Dow closed above 18,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday and the S&P 500 ended at its 51st record of the year after an unexpectedly strong report on U.S. economic growth. The 51 new closing highs are the most since 1995 and fourth best in history. Continuación...