"Being called 'high end' is usually good when referring to autos, wines or watches, but not to stock market measures," wrote Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ. "As of [Wednesday's] market close, the S&P 500 was 11.2 percent above its 200-day moving average, versus the average spread of 2.4 percent since 1995...investors will be increasingly less tolerant of future economic or fundamental misses."
On the economic front, weekly jobless claims fell 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000 last week, falling to the lowest level since 2008, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected first-time applications to rise to 335,000 last week.
Also on the economic front, wholesale inventories climbed 0.4 percent in March, according to the Commerce Department, edging past the 0.3 percent gain from a Reuters poll. However, wholesale sales unexpectedly fell 1.6 percent in March, logging the biggest drop since March 2009.
Quintiles Transnational jumped nearly 10 percent in its market debut on the NYSE, valuing the drug research company at about $5.70 billion. Other companies that are expected to go public this week include residential mortgage company PennyMac Financial Services and biotech company Receptos. This week will mark the highest IPO volume since late 2007, according to market data firm Ipreo.
Barnes & Noble surged following news that Microsoft may be considering an offer to acquire all of Nook Media's digital assets for $1 billion, according to Tech Crunch report.
Amazon.com rallied amid news the online retailer has been developing a smartphone with a 3D screen, according to Dow Jones, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Teen apparel retailers The Buckle and Zumiez rallied after both companies beat same-store sales expectations in April. And discount retailers Ross Stores and TJX also rose after the firms boosted their outlooks for the fiscal first quarter as sales topped forecasts.
As previously announced, TJX and Ross will no longer announce monthly sales after the April report, leaving a meager 11 U.S. chains reporting results, down from a peak of 68 in 2006.