Stocks held near highs by late afternoon Thursday as U.K. citizens headed to the polls to vote on the "Brexit" referendum.
The S&P 500 was up 0.92%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.89%, and the Nasdaq added 1.1%.
The latest poll numbers have tipped in favor of a "remain" vote. An Ipsos Mori poll showed 52% voting for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union with 48% saying they preferred to leave, backing up a ComRes telephone poll and YouGov poll released on Wednesday. The political and economic repercussions for the eurozone could be dire if a "Brexit" came to pass.
"Most polls report the outcome is too close to call, however, markets appear to be confident that the "Stay" camp will be victorious (or perhaps, given the non-binding nature of the referendum and near 50-50 split among voters, markets simply anticipate policy makers will maintain the status quo regardless of the outcome of the vote)," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Fixed Income.
The polling stations close at 10 p.m. London time -- 5 p.m. EDT -- with a clear indication of which way the voting is going likely to emerge from about 11 p.m. EDT. More than 46 million people in Great Britain are registered to vote in the referendum.
The latest read on initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell for the 68th straight week and hit an eight-week low. Jobless claims fell by 18,000 to 259,000 in the week ended June 18.
"Initial and continuing jobless claims declined, with both series remaining near their post-crisis lows," Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note. "The signal from claims continues to suggest that layoff activity remains minimal."
Manufacturing in June appeared to rebound from a weak May, according to a flash reading of Markit's manufacturing PMI. The measure rose to a reading of 51.4 in June from 50.7 in May, the weakest level since September 2009. June activity was at its best in three months.
New home sales slowed in May after a breakneck pace of growth in April, according to the Commerce Department. The number of new homes sold last month fell by 6% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 551,000, slightly below estimates of 560,000. Demand remains strong with tight inventory and low interest rates boosting sector activity.
Volkswagen (VLKAY) reportedly has agreed to pay roughly $10.2 billion to settle a U.S. investigation into its emissions-cheating technology. The payout would largely be divided between the 482,000 affected customers.
Department store Macy's (M - Get Report) announced that that current Macy's president, Jeff Gennette, who has spent 33 years at the company, will assume the role of CEO in the first quarter of 2017. Gennette was previously elevated to president in 2014. The retailer has battled sluggish sales the past year. The stock rose 1.6%.
BlackBerry (BBRY) reported a wider loss and another decline in revenue in its first quarter. The smartphone maker posted a net loss of $670 million in the latest three-month period compared to income of $68 million in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted net income was breakeven, better than an expected loss of 9 cents a share. Revenue fell nearly 40%, though came in above estimates.
Red Hat (RHT) agreed to acquire 3scale, a software-developing management company, for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close this month. For the fiscal year, non-GAAP operating expenses are expected to rise by $5 million, or 3 cents.
Separately, Red Hat earned 50 cents a share in its first quarter, on par with estimates. The open-source software company posted revenue of $567.9 million in the period, topping forecasts.
Tesla (TSLA - Get Report) was downgraded to equal weight with a price target of $245 at Morgan Stanley. The firm said the proposed acquisition of SolarCity (SCTY) adds more risk to the model and will not benefit its core car business. Oppenheimer and Baird cut their price targets on SolarCity while Barclays revised its rating down to underweight. Shares of Tesla fell 1.2% on Thursday. SolarCity shares fell slightly.
Communications software developer Twilio (TWLO - Get Report) traded with a bang in its debut day on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. The stock popped 87% to $28.18 Thursday afternoon, above its IPO price of $15 a share.