U.S. stocks closed near highs on Thursday, with the Nasdaq at a record, as investors focused on earnings beats amid progress towards near-term resolution in the Greek debt crisis. ( Tweet This )
"Earnings are continuing to play a bigger role," said Omar Aguilar, chief investment officer of equities at Charles Schwab Investment Management. "Financials (had) pretty positive results. At the same time it also reflects that people think the economy continues to move in the right direction, maybe not at the pace we thought we could grow but (still growing)."
The Nasdaq Composite rallied more than 1 percent to set a new closing record of 5,163.18. Earlier in intraday trade, the Nasdaq 100 hit its highest level since the tech bubble in March 2000, with Netflix surging 18 percent and eBay, Stericycle and Micron jumping more than 3 percent. The S&P 500 also came within 10 points of its record close.
The highs are "amazing given everything we've gone through in the last couple of weeks," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "The tech sector continues to perform (and one) we'll spend money on because it's irreplaceable."
Corporate results after the bell Wednesday were strong. Netflix closed up more than 18 percent at an all-time high after reporting solid subscriber growth that topped expectations. The video streaming site also posted earnings that beat estimates on revenue that barely missed forecasts.
"I think earnings continue to be the swing factor," said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S.Bank Wealth Management. "I know it's early but I sense that the delta is to the upside."
"Next week and the week following will be more telling but preliminary results are at or above lowered expectations," he said.
Before the market open, Citigroup continued the trend of relatively strong performance in financials so far. The bank delivered quarterly results that topped analysts' expectations on both the top and bottom lines, for the largest quarterly profit in 8 years.
Goldman Sachs posted quarterly earnings that fell sharply from the previous year, hit by a large litigation charge. The investment bank did top revenue estimates but missed significantly on earnings per share.
The blue-chip weighed on the Dow as one of the greatest decliners, bringing the index lower by as much as 17 points.
John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's, attributed the relatively slow climb upward in the Dow and S&P 500 to soft data.
"The economy's not doing that well," he said, noting continued concern about a rate hike before the end of the year.
The Philadelphia Fed survey came in at 5.7 for July, off June's 15.2 read, following a weaker Empire State read and a disappointing June retail sales report.
"Bottom line, as seen with the NY survey, manufacturing activity in the Philly region rose modestly," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, said in a note. "The big jump in June was an anomaly and the July figures gave it back. For U.S. manufacturing as a whole, modest growth also seems like the proper description."
The dollar gained against major world currencies, with the euro recovering from an 8-week low to trade below $1.09.
"For now the bulls are in control and that's the main thing to take away from the movement over the last 10 days," said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital.
Stocks traded higher in five of the last six sessions, including Thursday. Nervousness ahead of the Greek vote pressured U.S. equities to close a touch lower on Wednesday.