NEW YORK – Stocks were mixed Thursday after earnings reports from General Motors Corp. (GM) and Merck Co. Inc. (MRK) pushed the Dow Jones industrial average up to a six-year high while the Nasdaq composite sagged along with eBay Inc. (EBAY).
Dow component General Motors' stock gained 10 percent after the automaker record revenues along with reported its sixth straight quarterly loss. Drugmaker Merck & Co., also a Dow component, reported an 11 percent jump in first-quarter profit.
The Dow rose 64.12, or 0.57 percent, to 11,342.89. That was the blue chips's best close since it settled at 11,351.30 on Jan. 20, 2000.
Broader stock indicators were barely mixed. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 1.53, or 0.12 percent, to 1,311.46, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 8.33, or 0.35 percent, to 2,362.55.
In economic news, new applications for unemployment benefits dropped by 10,000 to 303,000, according to the Labor Department. The figure was the best shong since the beginning of April, suggesting the labor market is maintaining decent momentum, but reviving the fear of wage inflation.
Oil futures retreated from record highs. A barrel of light crude hit a record high of $72.49 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange before falling to $71.95, down 22 cents from Wednesday's record closing price.
"The message this week is pretty simple: People are looking for an excuse to buy stocks rather than sell stocks," said Ryan Larson, equity trader at Voyageur Asset Management, a subsidiary of RBC Dain Rauscher. "A year ago, $70 oil would have been the death of us; today, the market is able to digest it and look for positives."