Upbeat earnings, data drive U.S. stocks higher

The Dow and S&P 500 extended their rally to a fourth straight day Thursday. A batch of upbeat earnings reports, a drop in weekly jobless claims, and hopes of further progress on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package boosted the market.

Crossmark Global Investments chief investment strategist Victoria Fernandez said low rates and strong earnings will keep driving stocks north.

“Because we’re in the middle of earnings season, people can focus on that and the guidance that we’re getting from those companies, which has tended to be pretty positive right now. So you take that along with the Federal Reserve that said they’re going to continue to be accommodative for at least the next year, and I think you’ve got an equity market that continues to be risk-on.”

That sentiment helped propel the three major indexes up more than 1% Thursday. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at record highs.

PayPal and eBay were among the S&P’s top gainers. The surge in online holiday shopping from stay-at-home customers helped quarterly earnings from the payment platform and its former parent, top analysts’ estimates.

Qualcomm shares dropped almost 9%. The chipmaker said supply constraints that have hurt the industry were hampering its sales growth.

Videogame retailer GameStop plummeted 42% and cinema operator AMC Entertainment slid 21% after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she and regulators need to “understand deeply” the trading frenzy that has rattled Wall Street.

The government releases its closely watched employment report Friday. Economists expect an increase of 50,000 jobs in January.