U.S. stocks mostly declined Thursday afternoon, with the S&P 500 retreating after rising to within two points of its record close and the Nasdaq Composite extending losses into a third day, as investors sorted through a mixed bag of earnings.
The afternoon reversal was "more technical than anything else," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
"If you have a failed breakout of an existing high or resistance level it tends to bring sellers into the market," he added.
While the S&P 500 ran up to an intraday high of 1,889, "1,885 is where we stalled out. If you look at a daily chart, that's where we seem to bump our head," Hogan said.
Priceline Group gained after the online travel company reported a 36 percent increase in quarterly profit. Tesla Motors declined after the electric car maker's second-quarter outlook, delivered late Wednesday, proved disappointing to some.
"The earnings excitement for the day is a little bit done. We had Priceline and Tesla last night, and a little bit of a run up on government numbers this morning, and now we're looking for something to trade on, so to speak," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
"Everything is hugging the zero line waiting for some news to trade on," Kinahan added.
Seven retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters tallied an overall 4.6 percent rise in April same-store sales, with teen retailer Zumiez posting an 8.2 percent gain. Gap was expected to report after Thursday's close.
"A lot of professional investors are absorbed in the earnings season, and it's been mixed. Although results have been quite good, this is the type of market where unless you clear the bar by a lot, you are simply not going to get rewarded for it," said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.
"The thing that has been more prominent is some data surrounding retail activity, as it appears a bit better than recent months. Part of that is due to the Easter shift, but perhaps part is something else," said Creatura.
Ahead of Wall Street's open, the Labor Department report initial jobless claims fell by 26,000 to to 319,000 last week, versus a 325,000 estimate. The four-week average rose to 324,750 from 320,250 the week before, the Labor Department said.
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"We had good news on jobless claims, it looks like the jobs market is totally getting rid of the winter affect, and most likely we can begin to see jobs growth accelerate, so that's good news for the economy. We also had some good news out of China, their economy is stabilizing, so that's good news for the global economy," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.
"I suspect we'll probably see the S&P 500 is going to attempt to move into new-record territory, perhaps later in the session," Cardillo added.