Material stocks perked up in late-afternoon trading on news that President Donald Trump plans to unveil an infrastructure spending plan in 2018. Shares of Martin Marietta Materials, Vulcan Materials and Eagle Materials rose 3.5 percent, 3.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Wall Street also looked to Washington for clues about tax reform and a possible government shutdown.
Senate members passed a bill on Saturday that would change the U.S. tax code if it became law. Lawmakers in the Senate must now work with House members on a joint tax bill that must be passed before President Donald Trump can sign it. The House had passed another tax bill in November which differs from the Senate's plan on key items.
"The House tax plan looks like a plan to us; the Senate version looks more like an agglomeration of bits and pieces designed to either capture needed votes (which it did) and/or be bargaining chips in negotiating with the House," Jonathan Fenby of TS Lombard said in a note this week.
"As for reconciling the two plans, we think the House version generally wins out on the personal side and the Senate version predominates on the business side with one exception – no one-year delay on the corporate tax cut," Fenby said.
Wall Street has been eagerly waiting for changes to the tax code, lifting stocks to record highs as they expect most companies will likely pay less in corporate taxes.
Investors are also weighing the possibility of a government shutdown. If lawmakers fail to craft a deal on spending by the end of the week, the federal government could close until a deal is struck. President Donald Trump said Wednesday a shutdown "could happen."
But Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab, said he isn't worried about a government shutdown adversely affecting the market. "After the last three shutdowns, the market has actually gone up," he said.
In corporate news, Sage Therapeutics skyrocketed 70 percent after announcing positive results from Phase 2 testing of its depression drug known as SAGE-217.
Shares of Shake Shack jumped nearly 8 percent after the fast-casual dining restaurant reported better-than-expected quarterly results.
In economic news, investors looked ahead to the release of the November jobs report. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to release the data on Friday at 8:30 a.m. New York time. Economists polled by Reuters expect a gain of 200,000 jobs last month.
"We expect moderate to strong jobs growth in this report," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor. He noted, however, the labor market is showing signs of slowing down. "But that's typical. With a 4 percent unemployment rate, there just aren't enough bodies to put into jobs."