The S&P 500 gained in a choppy session after strong earnings results from Nvidia, the world's largest chipmaker by market value, and various retailers.
The S&P 500 was 0.3% higher to 4,704.54 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.5% to 15,993.71. The Dow fell 60 points, or 0.1%, dragged lower by big losses in Cisco shares. The S&P 500 fell as much as 0.3% at one point before recovering.
The markets are in a normal seasonal lull coming off earnings season, according to Jay Hatfield, CEO of Infrastructure Capital Management. Refreshed Covid concerns weighed on short-term trades too, he added, particularly in travel stocks and other reopening plays.
Even with those mixed market moves, company earnings continue to show strength and eventually pushed the major averages higher. Nvidia shares surged 8.3% after the company reported beats on the top and bottom lines and issued a bullish revenue forecast for the current quarter ending in January. The chipmaker saw a 55% gain in data center sales from the same period a year ago and a 42% increase in gaming, its biggest market. The gain brought its market value to $791 billion.
Nvidia's strong results caused investors to buy other chipmakers. Advanced Micro Devices moved more than 2.4% higher. Qualcomm ticked up by more than 1%, and Micron Technology added 2%. Separately, GlobalFoundries saw a big pop after revealing it entered a partnership with Ford to help the automaker increase its chip supply. Its shares ended the day higher by 2.5%.
Investors also moved into tech stocks broadly as U.S. Treasury yields took a dip of roughly 2 basis points. Scott Brown, technical strategist for LPL Financial, noted the S&P 500 Information Technology sector has gained 27% in the past six months, outperforming the broader S&P 500 by more than 10%.
"The theme of 2021 has been rotation, rotation, rotation," he said. "But technology is the only sector to recently hit a 52-week relative high and we believe that sets up a favorable outlook heading into 2022."
In other tech moves, Apple jumped 2.9% to an all-time high after Bloomberg News reported the company is refocusing its electric vehicle efforts on self-driving capabilities. Amazon gained 4% as its first cashierless coffeeshop, which it partnered on with Starbucks, opened in New York. It also got a lift from continued positive momentum in retail, particularly in digital.
Earnings reports from big retailers continued to lift stocks. Macy's and Kohl's kicked the day off smashing quarterly profit and revenue estimates, much like their peers who reported earlier in the week.
Macy's shares surged more than 21%. The company reported comparable sales growth, on an owned plus licensed basis, of 35.6%, and digital sales increased by 19%. It also teased the launch of a digital marketplace next year, and said 41% of its 4.4 million new customers in the quarter came through the digital channel.
Similarly, Kohl's saw gains in same-store sales growth and digital. Kohl's jumped nearly 11%. JD.com, China's largest online retailer, advanced about 6% on strong revenue and earnings.
Shares of Bath & Body Works increased more than 5% and was the top S&P gainer behind Nvidia. Gap added 4.3% and Victoria's Secret jumped more than 14%.
Elsewhere, CVS advanced about 2% after announcing it would close 900 stores over the next three years to roll out a more digital strategy for shoppers and turn brick-and-mortar locations into destinations for healthcare services like flu shots and diagnostic tests.
Deere got a 1% lift too after it came to a resolution with workers who had been on strike since Oct. 14.
But trading has been choppy all week with the major averages wavering at the flat line, and Thursday was no exception. The S&P and Nasdaq are still on track for a positive week and are about 0.3% from their records. The Dow is nearly 2% from its record.
"For a second consecutive session the underlying price action is a lot weaker than the headline indices make it seem with a handful of large stocks masking selling elsewhere," according to Vital Knowledge's Adam Crisafulli. "It seems the same worries are before are still present – COVID, the debt ceiling, Fed staffing uncertainty, the Fed will tighten too soon, the Fed isn't tightening fast enough. Actual news is relatively bullish ... Even 'bad' reports, like Cisco, still have bullish implications for the underlying economy."
Going in the other direction, Cisco Systems fell almost 6% due to weaker revenue guidance and a revenue miss.
Initial filings for unemployment insurance fell slightly to 268,000 for the week ending Nov. 13, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was the lowest level since March 2020, and the seventh straight weekly decline. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected them to have fallen to 260,000, compared to the previous week's adjusted 269,000 claims.