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Nasdaq, S&P Close at Record Highs, Caterpillar and Merck Lift Dow

The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 close at record highs after solid earnings reports from big players.

The Nasdaq and the S&P closed at record highs Thursday, bolstered by strong earnings reports from some of Wall Street's biggest players.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 239 points, or 0.68%, to 35,730, the S&P 500 advanced 0.98%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which also hit an intraday high, ended up 1.4%.

U.S. GDP slowed to its weakest pace in more than a year over the three months ending in September, Commerce Department data indicated. The agency estimated a 2% annualized third quarter growth rate - a sharp decline from the 6.7% pace in the previous period.

The U.S. economy's post-pandemic recovery was likely hampered by cooling consumption in the face of a surge in Covid delta-variant infections and the fading impact of government stimulus and extended jobless benefits.

"GDP told us what we already knew, the economy slowed down considerably in the third quarter," said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. 

"The good news is we see the next few quarters more than making up for the slowdown, as Covid trends continue to improve."

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Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report and Amazon  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report were slated to report September updates after the close of trading.

Apple will publish fiscal-fourth-quarter results as investors look for any impact from the global chip shortage on iPhone sales for the world's most-valuable  company.

Online-retail and tech giant Amazon is expected to show solid gains in overall sales while navigating labor and supply-chain challenges.

Caterpillar  (CAT) - Get Caterpillar Inc. Report closed up 4.1% as a rebound in construction equipment demand, as well as surging commodity prices helped boost the company's third quarter bottom line.

Merck  (MRK) - Get Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) Report shares jumped 6.2% after the drugmaker posted stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings, and boosted its full-year profit guidance, as it looks for FDA approval for its Covid pill, molnupiravir.

Ford  (F) - Get Ford Motor Company Report surged to a seven-year high after posting a third quarter earnings blowout. Shares finished up nearly 9%.