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Nasdaq rises for 7th day as Priceline leads rally among Internet stocks

The Nasdaq composite index rose for a seventh straight day, the longest winning streak in a year, as Priceline Group led a rally in Internet stocks.

Priceline climbed 8.5 percent after posting better-than-estimated fourth-quarter earnings. Walmart Stores lost 3.2 percent after saying wage increases and other spending initiatives will boost expenses. Energy companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 0.8 percent, after earlier falling 2.5 percent, as crude trimmed losses.

The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.4 percent to 4,924.7, the highest level since March 2000. The S&P 500 fell 0.1 percent to 2,097.45. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 44.08 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,985.77. About 6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 13 percent below the three-month average.

“Markets are either making new highs or going to pre-2008 highs,” Paul Zemsky, the head of multi-asset strategies at Voya Investment Management LLC, which oversees $213 billion, said by phone from New York. “The backdrop is still pretty good for equities and people are still climbing the wall of worry. With interest rates low around the world, you’re not going to find many other places with better returns.”

The Nasdaq composite has soared 4.2 percent in seven days. It is now 2.5 percent away from an all-time high reached in March 2000, which preceded a 78 percent drop in the shares.

While the Nasdaq has been rallying, the S&P 500 has barely budged from its record level. The benchmark index has closed within four points of 2,100 for four consecutive days, reaching its highest level of 2,100.34 on Feb. 17.

Equities pared earlier losses Thursday on speculation that Greece will reach an agreement on debt negotiations. Germany is leaving the door open to an agreement on Greece’s bailout funding as officials prepare their negotiating positions going into a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels on Friday.

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing the labor market is making progress. Jobless claims fell by 21,000 to 283,000 in the week ended Feb. 14, from 304,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington.

The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators, a measure of the outlook for the next three to six months, climbed 0.2 percent in January, the New York-based group said Thursday.

Priceline climbed 8.5 percent, its biggest gain since September 2014, after the largest U.S. online travel agent reported quarterly revenue and profit that topped analysts’ estimates, buoyed by increased international bookings through its websites. Rival TripAdvisor Inc. rose 3.6 percent to its highest level since October, while Expedia Inc. rallied 2.4 percent to a two-month high.

Facebook Inc. jumped 3.5 percent and Twitter Inc. advanced 1.8 percent, fueling a 1.6 percent rise in the Dow Jones Internet composite index.

Airlines added to Wednesday’s gains on oil’s decline, led by Delta Air Lines’ 1.4 percent rise. American Airlines Group added 1 percent and JetBlue Airways Corp. advanced 1.1 percent.

Oil prices fell 1.9 percent, paring declines of as much as 5.7 percent after a weekly government report showed U.S. crude inventories increased less than was reported by an industry group. The report showed stockpiles in the world’s biggest consumer still expanded to a record level.

Energy companies in the S&P 500 lost 0.8 percent after dropping 1.5 percent Wednesday. The group had added 3.5 percent over the three sessions prior to Wednesday’s decline.

EOG Resources fell 1.6 percent after its fourth-quarter profit missed estimates. The company plans to slash spending 40 percent and drill half the wells it did in 2014.

Transocean Ltd. slid 2 percent as analysts said the owner of the world’s largest fleet of offshore rigs will have to do more than slash its dividend by 80 percent to weather the oil price crash.