U.S. stocks rallied in a brief pre-holiday session on Thursday after data showing a drop in initial jobless claims and growth in durable goods orders suggested an economic recovery was picking up steam.

Stocks racked up a fifth day of gains on light volume before the Christmas holiday. After finishing early on Thursday, markets will be closed on Friday.

Data showed initial jobless claims fell more than forecast last week to the lowest tally since September 2008, while a separate report showed durable goods orders, excluding transportation, surged 2.0 percent, beating expectations.

The reports were more wind at the market's back, said

Michael James, senior trader at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.

Stocks that have performed well this year received an extra lift from year-end window dressing as portfolio managers sold laggards to buy shares that have rallied recently. Apple Inc , which has gained 144.9 percent this year, closed at a record high -- up 3.4 percent at $209.04. Earlier in the abbreviated session, which ended at 1 p.m., Apple also hit a fresh intraday high of $209.35.

There's far more people who have gains on a lot of names this year, who are less likely to want to sell, James said.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> advanced 53.66 points, or 0.51 percent, to end at 10,520.10. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gained 5.89 points, or 0.53 percent, to 1,126.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> rose 16.05 points, or 0.71 percent, to 2,285.69.

For the week, the Dow gained 1.9 percent, the S&P 500 rose 2.2 percent, and the Nasdaq jumped 3.4 percent, capping its longest winning streak since October.

Apple's stock also got a boost as excitement intensified over the expected release of its tablet computer.

Healthcare was the lone S&P sector to end slightly lower after the U.S. Senate approved an overhaul measure Thursday morning.

Health insurer Cigna Corp slipped 0.4 percent to $36.33, and the Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index <.HMO> declined 0.3 percent.

Health insurers and related stocks have rallied recently as legislation appeared less ominous for the sector than originally feared. But the Senate health bill must be reconciled with the measure approved recently by the U.S. House of Representatives, adding to uncertainty.

The U.S. dollar <.DXY> dipped 0.08 percent against a basket of major currencies, which helped push commodity prices higher. That, in turn, lifted shares of natural resource companies. Shares of steelmaker Nucor Corp gained 2.2 percent to $47.10.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jan Paschal)