The Dow industrials rose for an eighth consecutive session on Thursday, lifted by a rise in Boeing's stock, while a mixed group of economic figures kept the broader S&P 500 in check.

The Dow's gains came even though more stocks declined than advanced on the broad New York Stock Exchange and on a lower volume day in terms of trading, one day before the expiration of quarterly futures and options.

Boeing , up 2.2 percent at $70.87, gave the Dow its biggest boost after Bernstein Research said the 787 program appears to be making substantial progress. Boeing, which marked its highest close since late June 2008, is the Dow's best-performing stock so far this year.

The volume is low again, the market hangs in there, (there's) no volatility, said Todd Leone, head of listed trading at Cowen & Co. in New York

The market just can't get going (in either direction) and so we just slowly move up.

Economic data was mildly supportive. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank's index showed factory activity expanded more than expected in March, although new orders fell.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 45.50 points, or 0.42 percent, to end at 10,779.17. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dipped 0.38 point, or 0.03 percent, to 1,165.83. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> gained 2.19 points, or 0.09 percent, to close at 2,391.28.

The Dow's eight-session winning streak is the longest since an eight-day string of gains that ended August 27, 2009.

PALM PLUNGES AFTER BELL

After the bell, Palm Inc
delivered news that might weigh on technology shares on Friday, forecasting sharply lower-than- expected revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter on dismal smartphone sales.

Shares of Palm, which has exposure to both consumers and businesses, dropped 13.5 percent to $4.89 after the bell. In regular Nasdaq trading, the stock rose 5.2 percent to $5.65.

During the regular session, FedEx Corp , advanced 3.2 percent to $92.67 after the world's largest package delivery company posted a sharply higher quarterly profit that beat Wall Street's estimate.

United Parcel Service Inc , a FedEx rival, climbed 2.5 percent to $64.42. The Dow Jones Transportation Average <.DJT>, which includes both FedEx and UPS, gained 1 percent.

DRILLERS SLUMP, NIKE JUMPS

Oil service companies' shares dropped after UBS cut its price target on 11 drillers and oil service companies while also removing its short-term buy rating on Nabors Industries Ltd and Helmerich & Payne Inc .

Nabors shares lost 4.8 percent to $20.63 and Helmerich slid 5.3 percent to $38.88. The PHLX Oil Service Sector index <.OSX> dropped 2.8 percent.

Both Nike Inc and GameStop rallied after reporting results. Nike's stock climbed 5.3 percent to $74.66, a day after the largest global sports gear maker reported a third-quarter profit that beat expectations. GameStop shares jumped 6.6 percent to $21.16 after the video-game retailer forecast full-year sales growth of 4 percent to 6 percent.

But Intel Corp slipped 0.2 percent to $22.20, as chip stocks limited the Nasdaq's gain. Macquarie Equities Research started coverage of the stock and the semiconductor sector with a neutral rating, expecting utilization rates for the chip arena to peak in the next one or two quarters.

The PHLX Semiconductor index <.SOXX> shed 0.7 percent.

HEALTH INSURERS CLIMB

Health insurers' shares gained on the day as the U.S. House of Representatives appear to be on track to vote on the healthcare reform bill on Sunday, offering the prospect of removing some uncertainty for investors.

The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index <.HMO> rose 3.1 percent.

In other economic news, the Labor Department said consumer prices were flat in February, reinforcing the Federal Reserve's commitment to keep its benchmark interest rate low for a while. A separate report showed a dip in new claims for jobless benefits in the latest week.

Volume has been thin ahead of key options expirations on Thursday and Friday, when four different types of options and futures contracts expire in a convergence known as quadruple witching.

About 7.66 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, below last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 3 to 2. On the Nasdaq, about 15 stocks fell for every 11 that rose.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Additional reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Jan Paschal )