By Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga
A wobbly day on Wall Street ended with a mixed finish for stock indexes Thursday, nudging the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to new highs.
The S&P 500 rose 0.3% and the Nasdaq gained 0.5%, enough for the indexes to set new highs after a modest pullback a day earlier. After an up-and-down run this week, the indexes are on pace for a weekly gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2%, its third drop so far this week.
Roughly 67% of the companies in the S&P 500 fell, though gains by large technology companies and big retailers helped offset losses in other sectors as investors sized up the latest batch of corporate earnings reports.
Bond yields edged lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.59% from 1.60% late Wednesday.
All told, the S&P 500 rose 15.87 points to 4,704.54, while the Nasdaq gained 72.14 points to 15,993.71.
The Dow dropped 60.10 points to 35,870.95. Small company stocks also declined. The Russell 2000 index fell 13.42 points, or 0.6%, to 2,363.59.
U.S. stocks have been powering mostly higher since early October as companies reported much stronger profits for the summer than analysts expected. Nearly every company in the S&P 500 has turned in their latest financial results, with overall earnings growth of 39%. That far outpaces analysts’ expectations in June for 23% earnings growth for the quarter.
Investors have now shifted much of their focus to the threat from rising inflation. Companies are facing higher raw materials costs and supply chain problems that could crimp profits. Consumers have so far absorbed higher prices, but analysts fear they could eventually rein in their spending if higher prices persist too long.
Solid earnings results helped lift a handful of companies Thursday.
Nvidia jumped 8.3% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after the maker of graphics chips for gaming and artificial intelligence reported strong third-quarter financial results. Other chipmakers also gained ground. Advanced Micro Devices rose 2.4% and Micron Technology rose 2.1%.
Companies that rely on consumer spending on goods and services also fared well following solid earnings reports from retailers. Macy's surged 21.2% after the department store chain handily beat Wall Street’s third-quarter profit forecasts. Kohl's also reported encouraging earnings and jumped 10.6%.
Financial companies had some of the broadest losses. American Express fell 1.9% and insurer Aflac fell 1.8%.
Consumer staples makers and industrial companies also fell. Kraft Heinz slid 3.3% and General Electric fell 1.3%.
Investors received a positive update on the closely watched employment market, which is viewed as a key factor in the economy's continued recovery.
The Labor Department said that the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for the seventh straight week to a pandemic low of 268,000.
Updated on November 18, 2021, at 5:07 p.m. ET.