Encouraging news on jobs gave the market an early lift.
The last time the Dow knocked out 10 straight days of gains was November 1996. Back then, Internet companies were still lining up to go public and President Bill Clinton had just won another term in the White House.
"It's just a good run," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the brokerage BTIG. "And it speaks to optimism about the future."
Signs that the economic recovery is gaining strength have propelled the market higher since the beginning of March.
Last month, the unemployment rate dipped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. Adding to evidence that the job market is improving, fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week.
Record corporate profits and reassurances from Federal Reserve officials that they plan to keep interest rates at historically low levels have also helped push stocks higher. U.S. retail spending increased in February at the fastest pace in five months. That came despite higher payroll taxes kicking in at the beginning of the year.
The gains were broad on Thursday, though slight. All 10 industrial groups in the S&P 500 rose, led by energy companies.
MGM Resorts International's stock gained 7 percent after its biggest shareholder, the financier Kirk Kerkorian, requested permission to raise his stake to a quarter of its shares. MGM owns the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and other casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
Analysts say the stock market's surge this year will likely persuade more people to move cash into stocks. The Dow is up 11 percent this year, and the S&P 500 is up 9.6 percent.
So far, though, retail investors appear unsure. They put money in U.S. stock funds to start the year but have withdrawn it for the last two weeks, according to a report Wednesday from the Investment Company Institute.
The rally may have pushed the Dow to record highs, but skeptics caution that markets regularly take sudden turns. Exactly one year ago, for instance, the Dow had already raced up 8 percent. But by June, all those gains were gone.