Stocks traded mixed after largely disappointing economic news, and as companies delivered a varied batch of earnings a day after the market hit record multi-year highs across-the-board.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 30 pointsfollowing a rallysparked by Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke's remarks during his first-ever press conference.
Among Dow components, DuPont and Boeing gained, while Johnson & Johnson and Verizon fell.
The S&P 500 rose, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell slightly. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market,fell to nearly 15.
Among key S&P sectors, materials and consumer discretionary gained, while energy and technology slipped.
The Dow Jones Transportation Averagerose above its record closing level of 5,492.95, reached on June 5, 2008, after ending higher for the sixth consecutive session on Wednesday. On Thursday, the transportation average traded above 5,496. The intraday record was 5,536.57, reached on May 19, 2008.
Small cap stocks are also trading at record highs. The Russell 2000 Indexof small caps hit an all-time high on Wednesday, closing at 858.31. The index is up slightly again today.
The dollar struggled in the wake of the weak economic news and affirmation of the Fed's decision to continue to keep short-term interest rates low. The index has slid against a basket of currencies almost 4 percent in April to the lowest levels since March 2008.
The dollar's weakness helped to push gold priceshigher again to record levels. Spot gold traded up to around $1,531 an ounce after hitting a lifetime high of $1,534.30 an ounce earlier. Spot silver prices also gained, hitting an intraday high of 49.14.
Stocks continued to trade mostly higher half-way through earnings season, and in the wake of Bernanke's remarks. During the press conference, the Fed chairman said the first step in raising rates could occur when the Fed stops reinvesting the proceeds of its bond holdings, which would happen "based on our view of how sustainable the recovery is."
Investors liked what they heard from Bernanke, although he didn't say much new, because he reaffirmed the Fed will maintain tight control on a modest or stable inflation rate, and will continue to combat unemployment, said Tim Speiss, head of personal wealth advisors at EisnerAmper, adding that it was good for investors to hear Bernanke's explanation of the Fed's thinking.
"That gives a lot of confidence to investors," Speiss said.
While Speiss is generally upbeat about the economic outlook, he is concerned about the 5.2 percent drop in government spending in the first quarter. "When that starts to slow down, you can see a deceleration in (economic) forecasts," he said. "We'll keep an eye on that."