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Nasdaq closes at a record high ahead of major tech earnings

U.S. stocks closed higher Thursday ahead of major tech company earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 struggled to hold opening gains, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite closed at a record high.

Comcast, PayPal and Amazon.com were among the greatest contributors to gains in the Nasdaq.

Ahead of the open, NBCUniversal parent Comcast reported better-than-expected quarterly profit of 53 cents per share and revenue also above forecasts. Shares climbed nearly 4 percent, tracking for their best day since Feb. 3, 2016

Information technology was among the top S&P 500 performers, while energy was the worst, dropping more than 1 percent as oil prices fell about 2 percent on oversupply concerns.

U.S. crude oil futures for June delivery hit their lowest since March 29 and settled at $48.97 a barrel, tumbling 1.3 percent.

While the summer driving season has historically helped drive oil prices higher, domestic inventory levels "remain elevated by historical standards," Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA, said in a Thursday note to clients.

"We remain hard pressed to get excited for the prospect of higher oil prices in a sub-two percent GDP growth environment as production in the U.S. continues to increase and rig counts rise," Bell said. "Incremental demand from emerging markets would be necessary to more substantially drive down inventory levels."

Alphabet, Amazon.com, Intel, Microsoft, and Starbucks are among companies set to report after the closing bell.

"It's policy grabbing the headlines but the earnings still drive the market and the matter of the fact is, the earnings have been pretty good," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 22, 2017.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 22, 2017.

Technology, a key part of the so-called growth trade, has led the U.S. market rally so far this year.

The major U.S. stock indexes closed marginally lower Wednesday, holding within 1 percent of their intraday highs, after the announcement of President Donald Trump's tax plan. Top officials called the proposal the "biggest tax cut" in U.S. history but remained vague on highly anticipated details such as the tax rate on repatriation of overseas profits.

"I just think we're a little extended after the two-day move [earlier this week]," said Peter Coleman, head trader at Convergex. "Everybody's anticipating the tax plan. Although they gave some detail it wasn't very specific."

Durable goods orders rose a less-than-expected 0.7 percent in March. Weekly jobless claims increased more than expected to 257,000. Pending home sales fell 0.8 percent in March.

Treasury yields traded mostly lower. The euro held below $1.090.

The European Central Bank kept its benchmark interest rate at zero percent and monetary policy unchanged. ECB President Mario Draghi said in an opening statement that net asset purchases at a new monthly pace of 60 billion euros (nearly $65.6 billion) would "run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary."

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The Dow Jones industrial average closed 6.24 points higher, or 0.03 percent to 20,981.3. Boeing and Home Depot had the greatest positive impact, while DuPont and Caterpillar contributed the most to losses.

The S&P 500 rose 1.32 point, or 0.06 percent, to 2,388.77, with consumer discretionary and information technology leading five sectors higher and energy the greatest laggard.

The Nasdaq composite rose 23.71 points, or 0.39 percent, to 6,048.94.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded lower at 10.37.

About four stocks declined for every 3 that advanced on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 1 billion and a composite volume of 4.077 billion at the close.

U.S. light crude ended Thursday's trade 65 cents, or 1.3 percent, lower at $48.97, having fallen to a fresh four-week low.

Gold futures for June delivery climbed $1.90 to $1,266 an ounce.

On tap this week:

Thursday

Earnings: Alphabet, Microsoft, Intel, Amazon.com, Raytheon, Baidu, Starbucks, Expedia, Comcast, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Flex, GoPro, Western Digital, Vertex , Sirius XM Radio, Under Armour, American Airlines, Southwest Air, MGM Growth, Generac, Domino's Pizza, CME Group, KKR, Johnson Controls, Union Pacific, UPS, Total, Celgene, Deutsche Bank, Alexion Pharma, Nintendo, AbbVie, Bayer, Air Products

Friday

Earnings: Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Colgate-Palmolive, Honda Motor, Barclays, UBS, Sony, Synchrony Financial, Spirit Airlines, Autoliv, Sanofi, Spirit Airlines, Goodyear Tire, Calpine, Cabot Oil and Gas, Phillips 66, Weyerhaeuser

8:30 a.m. Q1 adv Real GDP

9:45 a.m. Chicago PMI

10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment

2:30 p.m. Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker

*Calendar subject to change.