Stocks End Off Highs After S&P 500 Tops 1,500; Apple Skids 12%
The S&P 500 closed higher for the seventh-consecutive session Thursday after crossing above the 1,500 level for the first time since December 2007, but Apple ended near session lows, putting a damper on the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
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The Dow is up nearly 5.5 percent so far this month, on pace for the best January performance since 1997 when the index rose 5.7 percent. The index is also within 3 percent of its all-time closing high of 14,164.53 points hit on October 9, 2007.
The S&P 500 squeezed out a gain of 0.01 points to finish at 1,494.82, logging its first seven-day win streak since October 2006. Earlier, the index crossed above 1,500 for the first time since December 2007. (Read More: S&P Tops 1,500: Where the Market Goes From Here)
Meanwhile, the Nasdaq declined 23.29 points, or 0.74 percent, to close at 3,130.38, mainly dragged by Apple. The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, ended above 12.
Most key S&P sectors finished in positive territory, led by consumer discretionary and health care, while techs slumped.
"Even Apple can't affect this market rally," said Yu-Dee Chang, chief trader at ACE Investment Strategists. "We're at the psychological 1,500 level so we may spend some time—maybe even days—going back and forth around here. And if we don't fall off, the market has another leg up."
Chang noted that since the market lows of March 2009, the index on average has cycled between gains of 13.5 percent and declines of 7.7 percent.
"So take the low in November—a 13 percent gain would put us near 1,520 on the S&P," explained Chang. "And then people will look for reasons to pull back. And when we get to that level, we would want to be a little bit cautious."
Among earnings, Apple plunged more than 12 percent after the world's most valuable company by market cap posted revenue that fell short of estimates and iPhone sales that missed quarterly expectations. The tech giant's stock has plunged nearly 33 percent from its all-time high of $705 last September. At least 13 brokerages slashed their price target on the company. (Read More: Apple Earnings Hit Could Whack Tech Hard)
Meanwhile, Netflix skyrocketed more than 40 percent after the movie-streaming site posted a profit of 13 cents a share, blowing past expectations for a loss. In addition, the company handed in current-quarter guidance that topped estimates.
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims fell 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, dropping to its lowest level in nearly five years, according to the Labor Department . Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to rise to 355,000 last week.
"The Fed Chairman [Ben Bernanke] said he wants to see substantial gains in the labor market before they're going to take the foot off the pedal—so this isn't enough to bring us there yet, but this is not a bad number," said Jim Iuorio, director at TJM Institutional Services.
In December, the central bank pledged to keep interest rates low until employment falls below 6.5 percent and inflation tops 2.5 percent.
"We have stock market tailwinds in Asia with the fact that they're devaluing the yen and China is providing stimulus in addition to a decent PMI—so this is not bad," continued Iuorio. "The chart is not giving us a reason to sell the stock market yet either, except for the fact that it may be a little long in the tooth."
Leading indicators gained 0.5 percent in December, according to the Conference Board. Economists polled by Reuters forecast an increase of 0.3 percent.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
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