U.S. stocks fluctuated on Thursday, a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose to a record finish, as investors took a cautious approach a day before the April nonfarm payrolls report.
"People are getting ready for the unemployment report tomorrow, so claims being up might be a slight drag on the market," said David Kelly, chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds, referring to the Labor Department's report that had initial claims for unemployment benefits rising by 14,000 to 344,000 last week. The four-week moving average gained 3,000 to 320,000.
The four-week moving average, which stood at 352,000 in December, "has gone done every month" since, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.
Exxon Mobil rose after the oil producer reported first-quarter profit declined less than expected. Avon Products fell sharply after the beauty products company reported lower-than-expected revenue and earnings for the first quarter, and disclosed it will pay the government $135 million to settle a bribery probe into its overseas practices.
Also supporting equities is M&A activity, which 2,470 deals completed globally in April, the highest monthly volume since July of 2007, according to Dealogic.
"There is more good news than bad today, and that's important, because we got our share of bad news with the GDP report," said Hogan of Thursday's worse-than-expected report, which had the government estimating the U.S. economy grew just 0.1 percent in the first quarter.
"The fact that they (stocks) were so much in the green, at a record high, is also having some impact. The economy is improving, but when I look at first-quarter GDP, it's clearly an economy crouching into the spring, but the crouching is more impressive than the spring," Kelly added.
A separate report from the Commerce Department on Thursday had consumer spending jumping the most in nearly five years in March, up 0.9 percent, while the Institute for Supply Management's factory index rose to 54.9 in April from 53.7 the month before.
Thursday's data comes before Friday's April employment report, with the government expected to report nonfarm payrolls increasing by 210,000 last month.
"We'll get a more defined market reaction tomorrow than today," said Kelly.