(RTTNews.com) - With traders reacting positively to the latest batch of corporate results, stocks moved significantly higher over the course of the trading session on Thursday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq reached a new record closing high, while the Dow bounced well off yesterday's two-month closing low.
The major averages ended the day firmly in positive territory but off their highs of the session. The Dow advanced 174.22 points or 0.9 percent to 20,578.71, the Nasdaq jumped 53.74 points or 0.9 percent to 5,916.78 and the S&P 500 climbed 17.67 points or 0.8 percent to 2,355.84.
The rally on Wall Street was partly due to the positive reaction the latest batch of earnings news, with the Dow benefiting from a sharp jump by shares of American Express ( AXP ).
Regional bank KeyCorp (KEY) also posted a strong gain after reporting first quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates.
On the other hand, shares of eBay ( EBAY ) came under pressure after the ecommerce giant reported better than expected first quarter results but provided disappointing guidance for the current quarter.
Verizon (VZ) also moved to the downside after the telecom giant reported first quarter earnings and revenues that came in below expectations.
Positive sentiment was also generated by comments from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who indicated the Trump administration plans to unveil a major tax reform plan "very soon."
In economic news, the Labor Department released a report showing a slightly bigger than expected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended April 15th.
The report said initial jobless claims climbed to 244,000, an increase of 10,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 234,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to rise to 242,000.
A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve showed a notable slowdown in the pace of growth in regional manufacturing activity in the month of April.
The Philly Fed said its index for current manufacturing activity in the region fell to 22.0 in April from 32.8 in March, although a positive reading indicates continued growth. Economists had expected the index to drop to 25.5.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board released a report showing a bigger than expected increase by its index of leading economic indicators in the month of March.
The Conference Board said its leading economic index rose by 0.4 percent in March after climbing by a revised 0.5 percent in February. Economists had expected the index to edge up by 0.2 percent.
Steel stocks moved sharply higher over the course of the trading session, driving the NYSE Arca Steel Index up by 3.7 percent. The index bounced well off its lowest closing level in five months.
The rebound by steel stocks came on news President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum prioritizing an investigation of the impact of foreign steel imports on U.S. national security.
Considerable strength also emerged among brokerage stocks, as reflected by the 2.8 percent jump by the NYSE Arca Broker/Dealer Index.
Virtu Financial (VIRT) and KCG Holdings (KCG) both posted standout gains on news Virtu has agreed to acquire KCG for $1.4 billion.
Railroad stocks also saw significant strength on the day, with the Dow Jones Railroads Index surging up by 2.6 percent. With the spike, the index reached its best closing level in over a month.
CSX Corp. ( CSX ) led the railroad sector higher, soaring by 5.6 percent after reporting better than expected first quarter results.
Banking, semiconductor, and trucking stocks also saw notable strength, moving higher along with most of the other major sectors.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Thursday. China's Shanghai Composite Index inched up by 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 1 percent. Meanwhile, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index closed nearly flat.
The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 1.5 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index both crept up by 0.1 percent.
In the bond, treasuries extended the pullback seen in the previous session due in part to the rally on Wall Street. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, climbed 3.9 basis points to 2.241 percent.
Earnings news will likely continue to attract attention on Friday, with Visa (V), E*Trade (ETFC), and Mattel (MAT) among the companies releasing their quarterly results after the close of today's trading.
General Electric ( GE ) and Honeywell ( HON ) are also among the companies due to report their results before the start of trading on Friday.
The National Association of Realtors is also scheduled to release its report on existing home sales in the month of March. Existing home sales are expected to climb to an annual rate of 5.60 million.
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