Dow hits fresh all-time high
Blue-chip barometer closes at new record; second day of Fed chief's testimony, mixed economic news, seesawing oil prices all factor in Thursday's session.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks rose Thursday, with the Dow hitting a fresh all-time high, as investors eyed mixed economic news, a rebound in oil prices and the conclusion of Fed chief Ben Bernanke's two days of congressional testimony.
The Dow Jones industrial average (up 23.15 to 12,765.01, Charts) gained 0.2 percent and ended at a new record high. Earlier in the session, the blue-chip barometer hit a fresh trading high.
The broader S&P 500 (up 1.51 to 1,456.81, Charts) index added a few points and also built on its 6-1/2 year high from the previous session
The tech-fueled Nasdaq (up 8.72 to 2,497.10, Charts) composite added roughly 0.4 percent.
Treasury prices rose, lowering the corresponding yields and the dollar slipped versus other major currencies.
Stocks surged Wednesday after comments from the Fed chief to the Senate Banking Committee portrayed the economy as strong, but not too strong - and inflation starting to ease.
The good cheer sent the Dow industrials, as well as the Dow's transportation and utilities averages, to a fresh record close. It was the first time all three hit records on the same day since 1998.
Bernanke's comments to a House committee Thursday were similarly upbeat, although slightly more focused on inflation. However, after Wednesday's euphoria, investors were more cautious.
Friday brings January readings on housing starts and building permits and the January Producer Price Index (PPI). The February consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan is also on tap.
Microsoft could be an early decliner Friday morning after the software leader said late Thursday that analysts' forecasts for Vista revenue in fiscal-year 2008 were too aggressive and that operating expenses should wane. Shares lost 1 percent in extended-hours trading.
The major gauges have now risen for three sessions in a row.
Stocks were volatile in the days ahead of the start of Fed chair Bernanke's testimony, helping to set up Wednesday's rally. However any additional gains Thursday were limited by the fact that the testimony doesn't really suggest much of a change in the Fed's outlook.
"The forecast is similar to the one the Fed came up with last summer," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at Trusco Capital Management.
Beyond Bernanke's testimony, investors are continuing to look to economic news to get a sense of whether the economy is indeed meeting the Fed's forecast.
"We're seeing the ebb and flow of stronger and weaker economic reports," Gayle said. "Today they are mostly weaker."
In addition to the morning's weaker reads on industrial production and jobless claims, midday brought the release of a surprisingly soft Philadelphia Fed index.
On the move
Dow component Caterpillar (up $1.46 to $67.62, Charts) gained 2.2 percent after the heavy equipment maker said it was buying back $7.5 billion of its own stock.
Qualcomm (up $1.65 to $41.31, Charts) gained after the wireless chip maker was upgraded by brokerage Oppenheimer, Reuters reported.
But oil services firm Baker Hughes (down $6.75 to $65.19, Charts) slumped 9.4 percent in unusually active trade after reporting higher quarterly earnings that missed forecasts late Wednesday.
Other declines included RealNetworks (down $1.70 to $8.97, Charts), which gave back 16 percent during active Nasdaq trade after the digital media company warned that first-quarter sales will miss analysts' estimates. The forecast overshadowed the company's otherwise positive fourth-quarter earnings report.
Baidu.com (down $8.82 to $106.18, Charts) slumped 7.7 percent in active Nasdaq trade after the Chinese Internet company warned late Wednesday that first-quarter sales won't meet analysts' forecasts. The company also reported higher fourth-quarter earnings, but investors focused on the forecast.
Market breadth was positive. On the New York Stock Exchange, winners beat losers 9 to 7 on volume of 1.38 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, advancers barely edged decliners on volume of 1.99 billion shares.
A morning report showed a surprise drop in industrial production in January and a bigger-than-expected decline in capacity utilization.
Another report showed a surprisingly strong rise in new unemployment claims last week, reflecting the impact of winter storms in the Northeast.
On the upside, The February NY Empire State index, a closely watched regional manufacturing reading, rose to 24.4 in the month, rebounding from a weak previous month and easily topping forecasts.
COMEX gold for April delivery fell 60 cents to $671.40 an ounce.
Treasury prices rallied, lowering the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 4.70 percent from 4.73 percent late Wednesday. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
In currency trading, the dollar fell moderately versus the euro and more substantially versus the yen.
U.S. light crude oil for March delivery fell 1 cent to settle at $57.99 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after losing around 2 percent in the morning.
Earnings slowdown: Blame energy