The Nasdaq and S&P 500 on Thursday closed at records and the benchmark indexes set intraday records as investors looked for more support for the struggling U.S. economy and improved vaccine distribution from the Biden administration.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 12 points, or 0.04%, to end at 31,176.
The S&P 500 edged up 0.03% to close at 3,853, while the Nasdaq finished up 0.55% to close at 13,530, record closes for both.
Top tech gainers in the Nasdaq included Intel (INTC) - Get Report and Moderna (MRNA) - Get Report, both up more than 6%. A number of major chipmakers besides Intel were higher, including ASML Holding (ASML) - Get Report, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) - Get Report and Xilinx. (XLNX) - Get Report
U.S. jobless claims dipped slightly last week. But they remained near 1 million for a second week as the labor market continued to retrench amid a resurgence in pandemic-related infections and deaths.
Biden, who was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. on Wednesday, has pushed a $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package that includes direct stimulus payments to Americans, enhanced jobless benefits and funds for vaccine deployment.
Many investors say increased stimulus can help support the country until most Americans get vaccinated against Covid-19, which has killed more than 408,000 in the U.S.
Biden on Thursday unveiled a series of changes that will both simplify and improve the country's approach to tackling the spread of the virus.
The new administration's aim of immunizing 100 million people during the president's first 100 days in office will hinge, at least in part, on congressional approval of Biden's stimulus bill.
Among other things, Biden's executive orders call for masks to be worn in airports, trains, planes, ships and intercity buses.
Biden also signed two executive orders creating a National Pandemic Testing Board to improve U.S. coronavirus testing capacity and a Covid-19 Health Equity Task Force to ensure an "equitable" pandemic response and recovery, CNN reported.
Another executive order he signed seeks to enhance the nation's collection, production, sharing and analysis of data about the virus.
"Jobless claims came in a little better than expected but still pretty dour in the grand scheme of things, and will likely fuel the stimulus efforts underway in the beltway," said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade.
"We’ve seen the market brush off weakness in the labor market before, and with a lot of sweeping changes in the last 24 hours, there’s plenty for the market to digest.
"And when looking for pockets of optimism in economic data (Thursday), housing starts reported a pretty strong beat -- signaling that economic growth is firing up," he added.
Housing starts in the U.S. rose 5.8% in December to a 1.67 million annualized rate, marking the fourth straight month of gains and the best pace since late 2006.
Stocks finished at record highs on Wednesday on expectations that Biden will increase spending and also on better-than-expected earnings from companies such as Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report. The Dow gained 0.83% and the S&P 500 rose 1.39%.
The gains in the Dow and S&P 500 on Biden's Inauguration Day were the best since Ronald Reagan took the oath of office for his second term in 1985, according to Dow Jones.