MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Pushes Higher On Solid Earnings, Policy Optimism

By Sue Chang and Anora Mahmudova, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nasdaq on track for record close

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The stock market rallied Thursday, with the Nasdaq poised for a record finish as investors welcomed a deluge of stronger-than-expected corporate earnings reports and economic data.

Comments from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that President Donald Trump's tax reform is not linked to the outcome of the healthcare bill also bolstered sentiment, analysts said.

The S&P 500 climbed 19 points, or 0.8%, to 2,357. Financials and materials topped the gainers.

The Dow industrials gained 192 points, or 0.9%, to 20,599, recovering its losses form the previous session. American Express Co.(AXP) was the best performer among blue-chips, jumping 6% following earnings.

The Nasdaq Composite rose 58 points, or 1%, to 5,921, above the record close of 5,914.34 on March 30.

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"There is a lot of good news when it comes to earnings and economic data and not only in the U.S. but overseas as well," said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Financial.

Mnuchin, speaking at an Institute of International Finance conference, said a Trump tax bill is likely to be unveiled in the near future (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fate-of-trump-tax-plan-not-tied-to-obamacare-repeal-mnuchin-says-2017-04-20), alleviating fears that the tax cuts promised by the president may have been put on the back burner after the Republicans failed to vote on the American Health Care Act last month.

"[His] comments today were icing on the cake and are giving investors confidence that the long term economic backdrop will be getting better," said Cavanaugh.

Reports earlier of a potential breakthrough (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/politics/health-care-congress-republicans/?link=mktw) among key House Republicans to secure more support for their healthcare bill had also contributed to market's upside momentum given Trump had previously prioritized repealing and replacing Obamacare over other policy changes.

"The market got a little aggressive on the news given the domino effect that the healthcare bill would have," said Mark Kepner, managing director of sales and trading at Themis Trading.

Economic front: "The trend of the market is down and is not likely to reverse until clarity of the underlying fear factors are put to rest," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist for First Standard Financial, in a note, referencing investor jitters over the impending French election, and tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Initial jobless claims rose by 10,000 to a still-low 244,000 in mid-April. Meanwhile, the number of out-of-work people collecting unemployment checks fell to a 17-year low (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/number-of-people-collecting-unemployment-checks-hits-17-year-low-jobless-claims-show-2017-04-20) last week, underscoring the strongest U.S. labor market in years.

The manufacturing index from the Philadelphia Fed slid in April (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/philadelphia-fed-factory-gauge-slides-again-from-33-year-high-but-remains-elevated-2017-04-20), but from high levels, suggesting slower growth in the factory sector after a postelection surge.

Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell, speaking about capital markets and the economy, said now was a good time to review the raft of banking regulations put in place since the financial crisis.

Stocks to watch: Shares of Philip Morris International Inc.(PM) fell more than 3% after the company fell short of earnings and first-quarter profit expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/philip-morris-shares-slump-after-earnings-miss-2017-04-20).

Foot Locker Inc.(FL) shares initially fell but rebounded to trade 5.4% higher even after the athletic apparel group issued a profit warning. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/foot-locker-shares-slide-after-profit-warning-2017-04-20)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/foot-locker-shares-slide-after-profit-warning-2017-04-20)Verizon Communications Inc.(VZ) shares fell 1.1% after the telecom company reported first-quarter earnings that missed Wall Street expectations.

EBay Inc.(EBAY) shares dropped 3.6% after earnings.

Qualcomm Inc.(QCOM) shares rose 0.3% after the chip designer beat earnings expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/qualcomm-gains-after-beating-earnings-expectations-despite-apple-legal-beef-2017-04-19).

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/qualcomm-gains-after-beating-earnings-expectations-despite-apple-legal-beef-2017-04-19)United States Steel Corp.(X) shares soared 8.5% on reports that President Trump has ordered a probe into whether foreign steel products are hurting national security.

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/qualcomm-gains-after-beating-earnings-expectations-despite-apple-legal-beef-2017-04-19)Visa Inc.(V) and Mattel Inc.(MAT) are due to report after the close.

Other markets: The Nikkei 225 Index rose for a fourth straight session, leading a recovery for Asia markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nikkei-up-for-4th-straight-session-leading-asian-market-recovery-2017-04-19). European stocks were higher, while the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/unilever-shares-push-ftse-toward-first-win-in-5-days-2017-04-20) finished in the red.

However, the French CAC 40 index rallied more than 1% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/french-stocks-rise-ahead-of-european-peers-despite-election-worries-2017-04-20) after a Harris Interactive poll signaled a win for centrist Emmanuel Macron in Sunday's first-round presidential election.

Read:Here's how France's hotly contested election could spark market turmoil (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-frances-hotly-contested-election-could-spark-market-turmoil-2017-04-19)

West Texas Intermediate crude futures for May extended losses. Futures suffered their largest decline in weeks (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-steadies-as-investors-await-eia-inventory-report-2017-04-19) on Wednesday after a surprise climb in U.S. gasoline supplies.

Gold prices and the U.S. Dollar Index were both little changed.

--Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this report.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 20, 2017 15:33 ET (19:33 GMT)