U.S. stocks rose on Thursday as strong earnings reports lifted big names like Apple, but underwhelming economic data and caution ahead of the long weekend kept gains in check.
The S&P 500 bumped up once more close to 1,340, a level that has triggered selling plenty of times this month. Some see a failure to convincingly rise above 1,344, the recent high in the benchmark, as a bearish technical signal.
But continuing with a recent swing in sentiment, Apple Inc
Companies are proving the concern over expectations was unwarranted because corporate earnings are looking very strong, said Eric Kuby, chief investment officer of North Star Investment Management Corp in Chicago.
Factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region slowed sharply in April and the number of claims for unemployment insurance fell less than expected last week, implying the economy was struggling to regain momentum.
Data is telling you we're experiencing a little bit of a bump, a little bit slower growth, said Anthony Chan, chief economist of J.P. Morgan Private Wealth Management in New York.
But he said there was hidden good news in the prices paid component of the Philadelphia Fed survey.
The slowdown is also going to put a damper on price inflation, he said.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> rose 26.30 points, or 0.21 percent, to 12,479.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 <.SPX> added 5.44 points, or 0.41 percent, to 1,335.80. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> gained 13.10 points, or 0.47 percent, to 2,815.61.
The Dow climbed as high as 12,496.83, its highest intraday level since early June 2008.
Travelers Cos Inc
Even Morgan Stanley
But McDonald's Corp
General Electric Co
UnitedHealth Group Inc's
Volume is expected to remain light on Thursday before a three-day weekend. U.S. and many global markets are closed on Friday in observance of Good Friday.
As you approach every weekend, there seems to be some concern about being long, said North Star's Kuby. It's becoming part of the dynamic.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jan Paschal)