U.S. stock indexes fluttered up and down Thursday, then ended the day a hair above where they started. The slight gains were enough to nudge the Nasdaq composite to another record and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index to within a whisper of its all-time high.
It was the second straight day where indexes made only modest, meandering moves, a downshift from big gains made early in the week.
ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index was up 1.3 points, about 0.06 percent, at 2,388.8, within a third of a percent of its record. The Dow Jones industrial average added 6.2 points, about 0.03 percent, to 20,981.3. The Nasdaq composite rose 23.7, about 0.4 percent, to 6,048.9, a closing high for the third time in four days.
OIL PRICES: As markets closed, benchmark U.S. crude was down 42 cents at $49.20 per barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London on the Intercontinental Exchange Europe, Brent crude, which is used to price international oils, was down 27 cents at $51.55 per barrel.
MAKING MOVES: Gains by Under Armour, Comcast and other companies reporting stronger-than-expected profits on Thursday helped to offset a slump in energy stocks. The encouraging reports added to the lengthening list of companies saying they earned more in the first three months of 2017 than Wall Street had forecast. Analysts expect this to be the strongest quarter of growth in years.
The reports have helped lift stocks and temper concerns, at least a bit, that the market had grown too expensive.
ANALYST’S VIEW: “Expectations were high, and they needed to deliver, so thankfully they have delivered,” said analyst Nate Thooft, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. “As long as earnings continue to follow through and economic data doesn’t roll over materially, stocks can keep going. People will say that valuations are expensive, but I would say, ‘Yeah, but not relative to fixed income.’ ”