The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record high on Thursday, bolstered by an upbeat weekly jobless claims report, while shares of vaccine makers fell after President Joe Biden backed plans to waive patents on COVID-19 shots.
Lifted by Apple Inc, the S&P 500 rose after a Labor Department report slot wallet showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 498,000 for the week ended May 1 compared with 590,000 in the prior week.
Investors were awaiting a more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday for clues on the strength of the labor market and potentially the U.S. Federal Reserve's stance on monetary policy.
"Investors are encouraged by the low-interest rates and the stimulus that the government is putting into the economy. We're also seeing substantial increases in economic projections and earnings forecasts," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.Pharmaceutical companies dropped after the White House said Biden made the decision to back a proposed waiver for COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights.
Shares in Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc, all involved in the making of COVID-19 vaccines, fell between 0.2% and 1.7%.
The S&P 500 healthcare sector index slipped 0.5%, while the Nasdaq biotechnology index dropped about 1%.
Moderna's shares cut some losses after it said countries around the globe would continue buying its COVID-19 vaccine for years even if patents on the shots are waived.
Microsoft Corp, Apple and Amazon.com Inc gained under 1% each.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.46% at 34,386.31 points, while the S&P 500 gained 0.17% to 4,174.58.