NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished modestly higher after pushing past key levels on Thursday, though mixed economic reports and lower-than-expected sales from Dow components AT&T ( T) and Procter & Gamble ( PG) kept the advance in check. The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 12,000 mark for a second consecutive session but again pulled back to close up just 4.4 points, or 0.04%, at 11,990. The blue-chip index has risen in four of the past five sessions, is on pace for a ninth straight positive week, and is up 3.56% in January. The S&P 500, meanwhile, was able to surmount its own psychologically significant marker of 1,300 in intra-day action but it followed the same pattern, settling up 3 points, or 0.2%, to finish just shy at 1299. The Nasdaq Composite gained 16 points, or 0.6%, to close at 2755. Home Depot ( HD), United Technologies ( UTX), General Electric ( GE) and Boeing ( BA) were the prominent gainers within the Dow. AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Kraft Foods ( KFT) and Alcoa ( AA) were the Dow's biggest laggards. Breadth within the Dow was positive with 17 stocks rising while 12 declined. Shortly before the closing bell, Microsoft ( MSFT) surprised markets with the early announcement of its fourth-quarter results. The software giant beat estimates on both the top and bottom lines with EPS of 77 cents on a revenue of $19.5 billion. Shares were off by 0.4% to $28.87. Shares of Amazon ( AMZN), however, were down 9% to $167.67 in extended trading after the online retailer missed revenue estimates . Trading on the big board was lighter than usual as another snowstorm blanketed much of the U.S.'s East Coast . About 986 million shares changed hands on the NYSE, while volumes on the Nasdaq totaled more than 2 billion. Market breadth leaned to the positive with 55% of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange advancing and 42% losing ground. Initial weekly jobless claims jumped by 51,000 to their highest level since October at 454,000, according to the Labor Department's report for the week ended Jan. 22. Economists had been expecting a slight increase to 410,000, according to Briefing.com.
The Department of Commerce said durable goods orders unexpectedly dropped 2.5% in December , after slipping 0.3% in November. According to Briefing.com, economists had forecast an increase of 1.5%. Excluding transportation, orders grew by 0.5%, which was largely in line with the 0.6% uptick that the market anticipated. In November, orders, excluding transportation, rose by 2.4% in the prior month.