Wall Street inches higher in pivot back to growth stocks

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street edged higher on Thursday, as lackluster economic data and mixed corporate earnings sent investors back to growth stocks.

A pull-back in economically sensitive cyclicals kept the S&P 500's the blue-chip Dow's gains muted, while small-caps underperformed their larger rivals.

But megacap market leaders such as Apple Inc, Amazon.com, Facebook Inc, Google-owner Alphabet Inc and Microsoft Corp rose ahead of their quarterly results next week, putting the tech-laden Nasdaq out front.

All three major U.S. stock indexes currently stand within 0.5% of their record closing highs

Growth stocks, which outperformed throughout the health crisis, were back in favor, gaining 0.7%, while the value index lost altitude.

The number of U.S. workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits spiked unexpectedly to 419,000 last week, a two-month high, according to the Labor Department.

"The market got spooked over jobless claims, but investors remain focused on earnings instead of the macro data," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York. "And earnings so far are better than expected. It's a market that's priced to its heights and there's no room for mistakes."

Market participants are closely watching labor market indicators for hints as to when the Federal Reserve, expected to convene next week for its two-day monetary policy meeting, will begin discussions about hiking key interest rates from near zero.

Benchmark Treasury yields eased after the bid at the largest-ever TIPS auction touched a record low, pressuring rate sensitive banks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 55.65 points, or 0.16%, to 34,853.65, the S&P 500 gained 8.84 points, or 0.20%, to 4,367.53 and the Nasdaq Composite added 56.12 points, or 0.38%, to 14,688.07.

Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, tech was shining brightest, gaining 0.7%. Financial stocks suffered the largest percentage drop.

Second-quarter reporting season barreled ahead at full-throttle, with 104 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 88% have beaten consensus estimates, according to Refinitiv.

Analysts currently see aggregate year-on-year S&P earnings growth of 76.5% for the April to June period, a substantial increase from the 54% projected at the beginning of the quarter.

Drugmaker Biogen Inc gained 1.2% after hiking its full-year revenue guidance, while Domino's Pizza Inc surged 14.2% to an all-time high on the heels of its quarterly report.

Southwest Airlines Co posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss, sending its stock down 3.5%, and American Airlines Group Inc dipped 1.5% even after reporting a quarterly profit.

The S&P 1500 Airlines index was off 1.6%.

Shares of Texas Instruments Inc slid 5.0% after its current-quarter revenue forecast cast concerns as to whether chipmaker will be able to meet spiking demand in the face of a global semiconductor shortage.

The Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index was last down over 1%.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.70-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.82-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 38 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 60 new highs and 41 new lows.

(Reporting by Stephen Culp"; Additonal reporting by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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