Dow posts 2nd straight record close

Blue-chip leader ends slightly higher for fresh all-time high above 13,100; Nasdaq ends at new 6-year high.

By Alexandra Twin, senior writer

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks gained Thursday, with the Dow industrials closing at a record high for the second day in a row, thanks to upbeat earnings reports from 3M, Apple and others.

The Dow Jones industrial average (up 15.61 to 13,105.50, Charts) added a few points and closed at an all-time high. The blue-chip indicator briefly touched a new intraday record of 13,132.80 before retreating.


The broader S&P 500 (down 1.17 to 1,494.25, Charts) index lost a point. The Nasdaq composite added 0.3 percent and closed at a fresh 6-year high.

Treasury prices slipped, raising the corresponding yields. The dollar rose versus the yen and euro. Gold prices slumped in response to the jump in the dollar. Oil prices declined.

After the close, Microsoft (Charts, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly sales and earnings that topped estimates. Shares gained 5 percent in extended-hours trading.

Microsoft should give the broader market a lift Friday morning. However, any advance could be challenged by the first-quarter GDP report, due out before the start of trading Friday. GDP is expected to have grown at a 1.8 percent rate in the quarter after growing at a 2.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Friday also brings the revised reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan shortly after the start of trading.

All three major gauges were on both sides of breakeven throughout the session, as investors struggled to position themselves after the previous day's record-breaking session.

On Wednesday, the Dow industrials jumped above 13,000 for the first time, as solid earnings and economic news reassured investors. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite also gained, hitting more than 6-year highs.

That left investors a bit reluctant for most of Thursday, despite some strong earnings. However, by the late afternoon, stocks found some momentum, with all three major gauges managing modest gains.

After hitting what many people consider to be a milestone, the market often needs a rest, said Ron Kiddoo, chief investment officer at Cozad Asset Management.

Considering that, the day's performance was pretty positive.

"I would have expected profit taking," he said. "We're up five percent on the month already, and that's good for any month."

Upbeat earnings were continuing to fuel the relative strength. With roughly 58 percent of the S&P 500 having reported results, earnings are currently on track to have risen about 6.8 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, according to the latest Thomson Financial estimates.

That's a slowdown after 14 quarters of double-digit percentage growth, but an improvement from the start of the quarter, when analysts were forecasting growth of just 3.3 percent.

Late Wednesday, Apple (up $3.49 to $98.84, Charts, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly earnings and sales that beat forecasts, sending shares up 3.7 percent Thursday.

Thursday morning, Dow component 3M (up $3.48 to $80.45, Charts, Fortune 500) reported quarterly sales and earnings that rose from a year earlier and topped analysts' forecasts, sending the stock up 4.5 percent.

Fellow Dow component Exxon Mobil (up $0.63 to $80.55, Charts, Fortune 500) reported higher quarterly earnings that beat estimates Thursday morning as stronger profits from its refineries overshadowed the impact of lower crude prices. The company also reported lower revenue. Shares rose less than 1 percent.

Ford Motor (up $0.32 to $8.20, Charts, Fortune 500) posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss, due to cost cutting and strength in its European and luxury divisions, which outweighed the impact of restructuring costs. Shares gained 4 percent.

Also late Wednesday, Qualcomm (down $0.04 to $45.30, Charts, Fortune 500) reported higher earnings and revenue that beat estimates. The wireless chipmaker also forecast that current-quarter and full-year earnings will top forecasts. Shares were little changed Thursday. (up $5.97 to $62.78, Charts, Fortune 500) climbed another 10 percent Thursday, rising for the second session in a row after reporting higher earnings late Tuesday.

On the downside, LSI Logic (down $0.98 to $8.94, Charts) tumbled 10 percent in active New York Stock Exchange trading after the chipmaker warned that second-quarter sales and earnings will miss estimates. The company also reported higher quarterly earnings that missed estimates.

Level 3 Communications (Charts, Fortune 500) reported a wider first-quarter loss and warned that second-quarter revenue will miss estimates. Shares fell more than 7 percent.

A variety of gold stocks slumped, including Goldcorp (down $0.86 to $24.51, Charts), Freeport-McMoRan (down $1.54 to $68.46, Charts, Fortune 500) and Newmont Mining (down $1.05 to $43.18, Charts, Fortune 500). The Amex Gold Bugs (down $8.05 to $343.27, Charts) index fell 2.3 percent.

Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners by 8 to 7 on volume of nearly 1.7 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers by a slim margin on volume of 2.47 billion shares.

In the day's economic news, the number of Americans filing new weekly claims for unemployment fell a greater-than-expected 20,000 last week to 321,000.

U.S. light crude oil for June delivery dropped 78 cents to $65.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Treasury prices slumped, raising the yield on the 10-year note to 4.69 percent from 4.64 percent late Wednesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.

In currency trading, the dollar gained against the euro and yen, rebounding after several down sessions.

The greenback's strength dragged on dollar-denominated assets like gold and silver.

COMEX gold for June delivery fell $9.40 to settle at $678 an ounce. Top of page