U.S. stocks managed to close higher Thursday, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average setting all-time intraday and closing highs, as investors meditated on a batch of mixed earnings from major retailers.
The blue-chip index hit an all-time intraday high of 17,705.48 points before closing at 17,652.79 points, a record closing high, up 40.59 points, or 0.23 percent.
The S&P 500 also hit an all-time high of 2,046.18 points in intraday trading. The broader index ended up 1.08 points, or 0.05 percent, to 2,039.33. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 5.01 points, or 0.11 percent, to 4,680.14, a fresh high since March 2000.
The stock market staged an up-and-down session, as investors weighed retailer earnings against slumping U.S. oil prices which settled at four-year lows, dragging the energy sector sharply lower.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the world's largest retailer, reported before the opening bell 1.15 U.S. dollars in its third quarter diluted earnings per share from continuing operations, which was above market expectations, and 118.1 billion dollars in consolidated net sales for the third quarter, shy of analyst estimates. The retailer giant's shares moved up 4.72 percent to 82. 94 dollars apiece.
Shortly after Wednesday's closing bell, JC Penney delivered mixed earnings, with a narrower-than-expected loss of 77 cents per share for the third quarter, and revenue of 2.76 billion dollars, missing analyst forecasts. The department store firm's shares sank 8.51 percent to 7.10 dollars per share.
Also on Wednesday, another department store chain Macy's Inc. reported that its third quarter earnings per diluted share rose by 30 percent year on year to 61 cents in the third quarter, beating analysts' expectations. But its total sales in the quarter slipped 1.3 percent from last year to 6.195 billion U.S. dollars, missing market consensus.
Investors are also looking to U.S. retail sales for October due out Friday by the Commerce Department which may shed more light on the health of consumer spending in the world's largest economy.
On the economic front, in the week ending Nov. 8, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims of benefits for the jobless came out at 290,000, an increase of 12,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 278,000, said the Labor Department Thursday. The latest number was higher than market consensus.
On the previous trading day, U.S. stocks ended moderately mixed, with the Dow and the S&P 500 briefly hitting all-time intraday highs.
The CBOE Volatility Index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, rallied 5.91 percent to end at 13.79 Thursday.
In other markets, crude prices plunged Thursday as a report showed inventories at the delivering point of U.S. crude increased last week. Light, sweet crude for December delivery moved down 2. 97 dollars to settle at 74.21 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for December delivery lost 2.46 dollars to close at 77.92 dollars a barrel.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange went up Thursday, with the most active gold contract for December delivery up 2.4 dollars, or 0.21 percent, to settle at 1, 161.5 dollars per ounce.
The U.S. dollar traded mixed against other major currencies Thursday ahead of the country's October retail sales report. In late New York trading, the euro increased to 1.2487 U.S. dollars from 1.2432 dollars in the previous session, and the British pound fell to 1.5718 dollars from 1.5783 dollars.