Stocks closed at new highs for yet another session despite mixed economic news and a varied batch of earnings reports, putting all three major indices on track for the best April since 2009.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 72.35 points, or 0.6 percent, to close at 12,763.31, the highest close since May 20, 2008. The gain follows a rallyWednesdaysparked by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks during his first-ever press conference.
Among Dow components, Boeing and DuPont gained, while Hewlett-Packard and Alcoa fell.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 rose 4.82 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 1,360.48, the highest close since June 9, 2008.
The Nasdaq rose 2.65 points, or 0.09 percent, to close at 2,872.53, the highest close since Dec. 12, 2000. The tech-heavy index had traded in negative territory most of the session.
Among the key S&P sectors, financials and consumer staples gained, while energy and technology slipped.
The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,fell to nearly 14.
Market volatility has been 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 negative Friday morning, he added.
At session's end, the spread between the risk premium adjusted future and the VIX was about 1.40. A spread of more than 1.20 is a signal the VIX could reverse course, Frederick said. In this case that would mean stocks could fall as the VIX rises.
The Dow Jones Transportation Averageended at 5,510.66, above its record closing level of 5,492.95 on Thursday, which was reached on June 5, 2008.
Small cap stocks also ended at new record highs. The Russell 2000 Indexof small caps rose 0.4 percent to 861.55 after hitting an all-time high on Wednesday, closing at 858.31.
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.