S&P 500, Nasdaq log record closing highs

The Dow took a breather but the rest of Wall Street nudged up to record closing highs on optimism about future stimulus under the new Biden administration.

Blue chips fizzled into the close to end down 12 points. The S&P 500 crept up 1 point and the Nasdaq jumped 73 points – enough for both to log new closing highs into the record books.

Tech outperformed on Thursday as investors looked for a safe place to hide in a choppy session, says Terence Gabriel. He's the Stocks Buzz analyst at Thomson Reuters.

"A lot's been built in, so it does seem to be a moment where certainly what have been the winners, some of these value stocks, financials, energy, small caps, they're stumbling where the market is rotating a bit back into some of those sort of bigger cap growth stocks that it feels may be a sort of safer area to concentrate on when you have suddenly uncertainty creeping back in here."

Mixed economic news put a cap on any upside moves outside of tech.

900,000 new Americans signed up for jobless benefits last week, though that number was down slightly week-to-week, it's still way above the peak during the financial crisis. The elevated numbers raise the risk the U.S. could post a second straight month of net job losses. All-in-all, some 16 million Americans received some sort of government unemployment assistance during the first week of January.

But on the bright side: permits for future home building projects surged last month to a 14-year high and manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region accelerated this month, thanks to a boom in new orders.

Investors also had to contend with mixed earnings. Shares of United Airlines tumbled nearly 6 percent after posting its fourth straight quarterly loss.

Intel, the humbled chip giant, topped both sales and profit forecasts. It also guided current quarter estimates higher.