Stocks Manage To Close Mostly Higher, Nasdaq Sets Record High

Stocks turned in a relatively lackluster performance during trading on Thursday but managed to end the day mostly higher. With the upward move on the day, the tech-heavy Nasdaq reached a new record closing high.

The major averages finished the session in positive territory. The Dow inched up 6.24 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 20,981.33, the Nasdaq rose 23.71 points or 0.4 percent to 6,048.94 and the S&P 500 edged up 1.32 points or 0.1 percent to 2,388.77.

The choppy trading seen on Wall Street for much of the day came as traders digested the latest batch of earnings news.

Shares of Comcast (CMCSA) saw notable strength on the day after the telecom giant reported first quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates.

Drug giant Bristol-Myers (BMY) also moved to the upside after reporting first quarter results that topped expectations.

On the other hand, Southwest Airlines (LUV) came under pressure after reporting first quarter earnings and revenues that came in below analyst estimates.

Auto giant Ford (F) also moved lower despite reporting better than expected first quarter results on both the top and bottom lines.

In U.S. economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 22nd.

The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 257,000, an increase of 14,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 243,000.

The increase surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to edge down to 241,000 from the 244,000 originally reported for the previous week.

A separate report released by the Commerce Department showed that new orders for manufactured durable goods climbed by less than expected in the month of March.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders rose by 0.7 percent in March after jumping by a revised 2.3 percent in February.

Economists had expected orders to surge up by 1.2 percent compared to the 1.8 percent increase that had been reported for the previous month.

Excluding a jump in orders for transportation equipment, durable goods orders edged down by 0.2 percent in March after climbing by 0.7 percent in February.

The National Association of Realtors also released a report showing a pullback in pending home sales in the month of March.

NAR said its pending home sales index fell by 0.8 percent to 111.4 in March after jumping by 5.5 to 112.3 in February. Economists had expected pending home sales to drop by 1.0 percent.

A pending home sale is one in which a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

Sector News

Railroad stocks showed a strong move to the upside, driving the Dow Jones Railroads Index up by 2.1 percent. With the gain, the index reached its best closing level in over two years.

Kansas City Southern (KSU) and Union Pacific (UNP) turned in two of the railroad sector’s best performances on the day.

Significant strength was also visible among semiconductor stocks, as…

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