U.S. stocks closed narrowly mixed on Thursday, with stocks near recent highs, as lackluster economic data and oil concerns weighed on investor sentiment.
"We tend to get vertical when we get close to all-time highs," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He noted that while economic data could be interpreted as fairly positive, oil continued to trade sideways as concerns about oversupply persisted.
Crude oil futures settled down 5.53 percent at $48.17 a barrel. Brent fell to trade below $61 a barrel on Thursday.
Energy fell nearly 2 percent as the greatest decliner in the S&P 500.
Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Caterpillar each fell more than one percent as some of the greatest blue chip laggards.The Dow Jones industrial average briefly flirted with positive territory, led by Cisco, Johnson & Johnson and McDonald's.
The Nasdaq came within 11 points of reaching the key 5,000 level last touched in March 2000, during the height of the tech bubble.
The core Consumer Price Index, the key figure for the Fed that excludes more volatile food and energy prices, gained 0.2 percent in January. However, the broader index was down more than expected at 0.7 percent. Expectations were for a further sharp drop of 0.6 percent month on month, the biggest fall since 2008, driven by energy prices to leave the year-on-year rate in negative territory.
"The Fed should not be leaning on low inflation reads for comfort because all we need is an uptick in commodity prices (or for them to at least stop going down) and the consensus picture on inflation will change quickly," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a note.
Durable goods orders figures for January increased a more-than-expected 2.8 percent, after a 3.4 percent decline in the prior month.
Initial claims for unemployment for the week of Feb. 15, came in at 313,000. Analysts had expected the figure to increase moderately to 285,000 from 283,000 the week prior.
"I think (Thursday's declines are from) the jobless claims jumping back above 300,000," said Chris Gaffney, senior market strategist at EverBank Wealth Management. "The markets were expecting to see better information on jobless claims. Jumping back above 300,000 is a negative."
However, with stocks still near recently touched records, several analysts said the slight pullback was expected.
"The market might be due for a pause here as we move towards March," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. He noted rather high multiples of 17.8 on current earnings in the S&P 500.
"The market is showing a bit of fatigue here because you're at high levels," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. He expected Thursday to be a mixed session.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at a record on Wednesday, while the Nasdaq attempted to reach the key 5,000 level.