Stocks continued to gain before the market closed Thursday although many tech stocks slipped after mixed earnings reports and ahead of Microsoft's results, which will be released later today.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 65 pointsfollowing a rallyWednesdaysparked by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks during his first-ever press conference.
Among Dow components, Boeing and AmEx gained, while Hewlett-Packard and Exxon Mobil fell.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 rose, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq turned higher after trading in negative territory most of the session. Among the key S&P sectors, financials and utilities gained, while energy and technology slipped.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,fell below 15.
Market volatility has been very low this year, and currently is at "very low levels," said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
For April, the so-called fear index has averaged about 18.60, while last year, the VIX averaged about 22.50, Frederick said.
In late afternoon trading, VIX futures fell far less than the VIX itself, indicating the market could turn around.
"The current spread between the risk premium adjusted future and the VIX is 1.34," Frederick said. "If this spread closes this high or higher, I would expect market weakness at the open tomorrow."
The Dow Jones Transportation Averagerose above its record closing level of 5,492.95 on Thursday, reached on June 5, 2008, after ending higher for the sixth consecutive session on Wednesday. On Thursday, the transportation average traded above 5,510. The intraday record was 5,536.57, reached on May 19, 2008.
Small cap stocks also traded at record highs. The Russell 2000 Indexof small caps hit an all-time high on Wednesday, closing at 858.31. The index is up slightly again today.
The dollar struggled in the wake of weak economic news and affirmation of the Fed's decision to continue to keep short-term interest rates low. The index has slid against a basket of currencies almost 4 percent in Aprilto the lowest levels since March 2008.
The dollar's weakness helped to push gold priceshigher again to record levels. Gold futures for May deliver rose 0.94 percent to $1,530 an ounce, the 12th record settling price for the precious metal in April. Comex silver for May delivery rose 3.4 percent to $47.52, the highest level since Jan. 17, 1980.
A big batch of earnings was released before the market opened. Of the 291 companies reporting so far this quarter, representing 58 percent of all S&P 500 companies, 74 percent have beaten earnings estimates while 70 percent have beaten revenue estimates, according to Thomson Reuters.
Exxon Mobil fell slightly after reporting earnings results Thursday morning as investors focused on revenues that fell shyof expectations, although profits were better than expected.
Many major oil companies also fell, including ConocoPhillips ,Sunoco and Chevron , which reports earnings on Friday before-the-bell. Deutsche Bank cut its price target on ConocoPhillips to $85 from $90 and reduced its rating to "hold" from "buy."
Oil prices were mixedamid weak economic data and a weaker dollar. London Brent crude fell 0.9 percent to $125.02 a barrel, while U.S. light crude rose 0.09 percent to close at $112.86.