* JCPenney shares drop after earnings
* Tableau Software surges in first day of trade
* Dow up 0.5 percent, S&P 500 up 0.7 percent, Nasdaq up 0.6 percent
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, May 17 (Reuters) - Growth sectors led Wall Street's advance on Friday as encouraging economic data put major U.S. stock indexes on track to close out their fourth week of gains in a row.
Data showed Americans felt better about their economic and financial prospects in early May, with consumer sentiment at its highest in nearly six years, while a gauge of future economic activity rose in April to a near five-year high.
"Sentiment was way higher than expected, so obviously that's good, and that speaks to the fact people are getting more confident," said Doreen Mogavero, CEO of Mogavero, Lee & Co in New York.
The rate of growth in the U.S. economy has been expected to slow in the second quarter as tighter fiscal policy starts to bite. But recent improvement, including in the labor market and retail sales, has suggested the recovery remains resilient.
As slow as it is, "we are still recovering," Mogavero said. "The U.S. (market), for all its woes, is still the best place to be at this moment."
Earlier in the session, the Dow hit another all-time intraday high at 15,308.79 and the Nasdaq Composite hit its highest since October 2000.
"Investors are looking toward growth sectors," said Bruce Zaro, chief technical strategist at Delta Global Asset Management in Boston.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 72.57 points, or 0.48 percent, to 15,305.79. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 10.95 points, or 0.66 percent, to 1,661.42. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 20.80 points, or 0.60 percent, to 3,486.04.
JPMorgan raised its year-end target on the S&P 500 to 1,715 from 1,580, implying a gain of just under 3.5 percent for the index for the rest of the year.
"We realize investors are apprehensive about making fresh money purchases, but we see the risk/reward as particularly attractive in Technology, Healthcare, and Financials," said the client note from JPMorgan's U.S. equity strategist Thomas Lee.
General Motors Co shot up 3.9 percent to $33.64 after CLSA raised its rating on the automaker's stock to "buy" from "underperform."
JCPenney shares lost 3.6 percent to $18.11 after the retailer reported another steep quarterly loss on weak sales and heavy clearance deals, and Chief Executive Myron Ullman cautioned he needs time to fix the company's problems.
Tableau Software surged in its first day of trading as investors bet the rising interest in big data will drive the data analysis software maker's growth. Tableau was up 56.5 percent at $48.53.
S&P Dow Jones Indices said after the close on Thursday that S&P MidCap 400 component Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU - news) will replace Dean Foods Co in the S&P 500. Kansas City Southern shares gained 0.9 percent to $117.27 while Dean Foods edged up 1.2 percent to $20.83.
Aruba Networks Inc (NasdaqGS: ARUN - news) plunged 27.3 percent to $12.81 after the network equipment maker released fourth-quarter results well below Wall Street's expectations, hurt by rising competition from Cisco Systems Inc (NasdaqGS: CSCO - news) .