Stocks ended mixed but the Dow closed at another record high as earnings continued to exceed expectations.
"We were all expecting some kind of pullback but it's just one of those moves that you can't pinpoint with any single piece of data," said Mike Driscoll, managing director of listed trading at Bear Stearns.
"It's a very liquidity-driven rally, in my opinion, and you can't gauge when it's going to stop," he added. "It's best to go along for the ride, it'll be over when it's over."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a new record high with a modest 15-point rise, one day after posting triple-digit gains which took the blue chip index above 13,000 for the first time. The S&P 500 moved closer to confirming the Dow, closing less than six points below 1500, a level not seen since September 2000.
"I love the fact that the market is able to go up, up and away, 17 out of 19 days in a row, a 10% move for the Dow Industrials," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. Edwards. "That's a good advance for a year, not six weeks."
The Nasdaq outperformed the other major U.S. indexes as tech stocks were notably strong following a solid earnings report from Apple Computer and further gains for Amazon.com.
Apple rose 5% after reporting fiscal second-quarter earnings above expectations. Goldman Sachs raised 2007 and 2008 earnings estimates following the report.
"Results were remarkably balanced, with both iPod and Mac stronger than expected, even as Apple gets ready to head into its next platform introduction: iPhone," wrote analyst David Bailey in a client report. "We still see considerable room for upside."
Shares of Amazon.com have gained 40% in just two trading sessions, adding 10.5% today following Wednesday's 27% surge following strong earnings and brighter outlook.
Breadth was slightly negative as decliners slightly outnumbered gainers on the New York Stock Exchange. Four of 10 sectors in the S&P 500 closed up, led by technology. On the losing side, utilities and basic materials shares lagged.
"I am bullish on this market," said Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the University Of Pennsylvania. "I think other asset classes in the world are very, very expensive, and I think stocks are basically at their long-term historical valuations and when I can get something at fair value and everything else is overpriced, I want it."
In other earnings news, 3M said first-quarter earnings jumped 52% on the sale of its European pharmaceutical business. Results topped analysts' forecasts, sending shares of the Dow component to an index-best gain of 4.5%.
Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded company, said first-quarter earnings rose more than 10% as higher profits from its refineries outweighed lower crude oil prices.
Ford Motor said its first-quarter loss narrowed due to cost-cutting moves and improved results at its European and luxury vehicle operations. Ford shares rose more than 3% and rival General Motors also gained.
Wireless technology and chip developer Qualcomm posted a higher quarterly profit as revenue rose on strong demand for its mobile phone chips. Shares were trading higher.
Bristol-Myers Squibbbeat analysts' forecasts for the first quarter and raised its full-year profit outlook. The drug company also said interim CEO James Cornelius has been named the permanent chief executive.
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Specialty drugmaker Cephalon rose 7% after releasing better than expected first-quarter earnings guidance dueto strong sales of painkillers and lower costs.
New York light crude futures fell 1.2%, closing at just above $65 a barrel.
European Stocks Close Mixed But Asia Rallies
Major indexes in Europe closed mixed on Thursday but Japan's Nikkei rebounded with a 1% rise and South Korea's Kospi hit a new high following strong gains in the United States on Wednesday.
Germany's DAX outperformed European counterparts closing up 0.6% to 7,387, the highest close in about seven years. The index was boosted by gains in DaimlerChrysler and Deutsche Post.
The London FTSE-100 closed modestly higher while the Paris CAC-40 fell slightly.
The takeover battle for ABN Amro is apparently not over as a new wrinkle has emerged. The Dutch bank said it will open its books to the consortium led by the Royal Bank of Scotland, which made a $98.2 billion rival bid for the bank, above the previously accepted offer from Barclays. ABN Amro shares rose more than 1%.
France Telecom said first-quarter operating profit rose 1.5%, boosted by strong demand for Internet services and lower costs. The group also announced Sanjiv Ahuja, head of its Orange U.K. and International business, is to step down.
South Korea's Kospi Index closed higher, hitting its 14th record this month, as Samsung Electronics rose after the listing of a card affiliate was approved, while SK Telecom advanced after reporting earnings that beat analyst estimates.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average finished over 1% higher as technology shares including Kyocera and Shin-Etsu Chemical gained ground following a rally in their U.S. peers and ahead of their earnings reports.