NEW YORK — The S&P 500 broke a five-day string of record closing highs on Thursday, ending a fairly volatile session lower as recent momentum lost steam and Apple shares declined.
The Dow also broke its two-day string of all-time closing highs, but still ended above 15,000.
The length of the recent rally has surprised many investors. Analysts said it’s difficult for the upward momentum to continue without further catalysts, such as first-quarter earnings reports, which are nearing an end.
Volume has been weak for much of this year’s rally. In fact, volume has been below average all week.
“This market is so stretched to the upside that if we get some little wiggle somewhere, I can easily see us getting back down to 1,580″ on the S&P 500, said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco.
Apple, down 0.9 percent at $456.77, led the declines of both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq, while International Business Machines, down 0.8 percent at $203.24, was the biggest drag on the Dow.
The day’s economic data was mostly positive, but failed to give much of a boost to stocks. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in almost 5-1/2 years — contrary to economists’ forecast of a gain — U.S. Labor Department data showed.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 22.50 points, or 0.15 percent, to end at 15,082.62. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 6.02 points, or 0.37 percent, to finish at 1,626.67. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 4.10 points, or 0.12 percent, to close at 3,409.17.
Despite the declines for the day, both the Dow and the S&P 500 reached all-time intraday highs — with the Dow touching 15,144.83 and the S&P 500 reaching 1,635.01.
The market, which had been down slightly from the opening bell through midday, reversed course and began to edge higher in early afternoon. Stocks lost steam later in the session.
Limiting losses on the S&P 500, News Corp. shares gained 4.5 percent to $33.29. It reported earnings late Wednesday that beat expectations while revenue rose 14 percent. Rupert Murdoch’s media company also said it was on track to split off its slow-growing publishing business by the end of June.
Among other top advancers, Tesla Motors Inc. surged 24.4 percent to $69.40 a day after posting adjusted earnings that were three times what analysts were expecting as the company sold more cars than it had initially forecast.
Shares of Barnes & Noble Inc. shot up 24.3 percent to $22.08, after hitting a fresh 52-week high of $22.25. The stock’s sharp advance followed a report by web publication TechCrunch that Microsoft Corp. was considering an offer to acquire all of Nook Media’s digital assets for $1 billion. Microsoft shares slipped 1 percent to $32.66.
Volume was roughly 6.3 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, slightly below the average daily closing volume of about 6.4 billion this year.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1 and on the Nasdaq, about three stocks fell for every two that rose.