S&P, Nasdaq hit records on jobless claims drop

The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed at fresh record highs, but stock market gains were limited as investors kept watch on a health crisis that continues to rage.

The Dow rallied 271 points. The S&P 500 jumped 26. The Nasdaq rose 114.

Stocks were higher after first-time weekly jobless claims dipped to 385,000 – a decline of 14,000 from the previous week.

That soothed investor concerns one day ahead of the closely-watched monthly jobs report and latest unemployment data.

But investors will be holding their breath until the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, releases those numbers on Friday, says Victoria Fernandez, chief market strategist at Crossmark Global Investments.

"We have to remember that a lot of the may be what we call low hanging fruit and the labor market, those people have gone back to work. We're looking at with the BLS report, perhaps more government workers going back again, looking at schools starting to reopen, teachers going back. Hopefully that gives it a little bit of a boost. I would say we might come in a little bit lower than expectations, but not tremendously so."

In other economic data, the U.S. trade deficit surged to a record high - climbing to nearly $76 billion in June - as businesses brought in more imported goods to meet a surge in consumer spending.

Earnings season continued to roll on...

Heath insurance provider Cigna warned of a bigger hit to its full-year earnings due to the impact of the health crisis on its financials. The stock slumped roughly 11 percent.

After the close: Beyond Meat posted a bigger than expected quarterly loss and second-quarter sales missed estimates. The meat alternative company also gave a disappointing outlook, citing uncertainty surrounding food demand during this new wave of the health crisis.

In other corporate headlines: Robinhood investors went on another wild ride Thursday - this time to the downside. Shares plunged 27-1/2 percent - snapping a four-day rally - after the company said stakeholders will be offloading nearly 98 million shares and the company will not receive any of the proceeds.