Updated from 4:17 p.m. EST

An advance in the tech sector led Wall Street to the upside Thursday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high.

When trading came to an end, the Dow had risen 72.82 points, or 0.59%, to 12,514.98, its best-ever finish. The S&P 500 added 8.97 points, or 0.63%, at 1423.82, and the Nasdaq Composite was ahead by 25.52 points, or 1.04%, at 2484.85.

On the Dow, Intel ( INTC) and Microsoft ( MSFT) were higher by 1.9% and 3.5%, respectively.

Gains of 3.2% or more in eBay ( EBAY) and Level 3 ( LVLT) helped boost the Nasdaq.

Volume rose from Wednesday's levels, with 2.96 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Nearly 2.42 billion shares traded on the Nasdaq. Winners outpaced losers 2 to 1.

Crude oil prices extended their recent downtrend. The February futures contract plummeted $2.14 to $51.88 a barrel, the lowest finish since May 2005. Through the previous close, crude prices had already fallen 11.5% for the year.

The Amex Oil Index was lower by 0.4% and the Philadelphia Oil Service Sector Index dropped 1.3%. Meanwhile, airline stocks among the winners of the session, with the Amex Airline Index adding 3.1%.

The dollar was mixed against the world's other major currencies. The news of the day in the foreign-exchange market was coming out of Europe, where the European Central Bank left its benchmark lending rate unchanged but the Bank of England raised rates by a quarter point.

Both the euro and the pound fell against the greenback. Gold was up slightly, adding 50 cents to close at $613.90 an ounce.

Treasuries eased. The 10-year note was down 12/32 in price and yielding 4.73%, and the 30-year bond was off 20/32 and yielding 4.82%.

The Federal Reserve was in the news again, this time to announce that Boston Fed President Cathy Minehan will be retiring. Minehan was to be a voting member of the FOMC in 2007 beginning in January.

On the corporate side, several firms raised their stock price targets for Genentech ( DNA) after the biotech company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $594 million, or 55 cents a share, up 75% from a year ago.

Excluding items, Genentech earned 61 cents a share, beating the consensus by a nickel. Shares added 4.4% to $87.40.

Analysts also had positive comments on Google ( GOOG), where Goldman raised its price target and revenue forecast, and Banc of America reiterated a buy rating on the stock. Shares of Google gained $10.26, or 2.1%, to $499.72.

BofA also affirmed its opinion that Yahoo! ( YHOO) is a buy. Yahoo! rose 50 cents, or 1.7%, to $29.20.

Elsewhere in the tech space, Cisco ( CSCO) is suing Apple ( AAPL), saying it infringed on Cisco's trademark for the iPhone name.

On Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the company's own iPhone, a name that Cisco has had since acquiring Infogear in 2000. Shares of Apple, up 14% this week, were lower by $1.20, or 1.2%, to $95.80.

Altria ( MO) shares reached an all-time high of $90.50 after UBS raised its price target to $94 from $81. Altria finished the session with a gain of 21 cents, or 0.2%, to $89.40.

In M&A activity, Six Flags ( SIX) will sell seven of its theme parks to Parc 7F-Operations in a deal worth $312 million. The stock was higher by 47 cents, or 8.7%, to finish at $5.90.

Turning to the economic docket, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell last week by a greater-than-expected 26,000 to 299,000. Economists expected a small decline to 320,000. The less volatile four-week moving average was lower by 1,750 to 314,750.

Overnight in Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.6% to 16,838, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.9% to 19,385. In Europe, London's FTSE 100 jumped 1.1% at 6230. Germany's Xetra DAX was up 1.8% to 6687.

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