By Riva Gold and Akane Otani
Declines in biotechnology shares dragged down the Nasdaq Composite, pressuring an index that has soared so far this year.
The Nasdaq fell 0.4% Thursday but is up more than 8% in 2017, outperforming both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500, which are up more than 5%. The tech-heavy index has closed at a fresh high 19 times so far this year -- its most records in a year since 1999, according to the WSJ Market Data Group.
The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index shed 0.3% Thursday while technology shares also slipped. Shares of Intercept Pharmaceuticals fell 5.6% and Nvidia fell 9.3%.
The S&P 500 rose less than 0.1% and the Dow industrials rose 0.2%, setting another fresh high.
Stocks have climbed since Election Day, as corporate earnings have improved, data has shown growth in the U.S. economy and investors have bet the new U.S. administration will implement tax cuts and fiscal stimulus.
"The outlook for earnings got a bit better, regardless of the election. Then you throw on top of that perhaps a more business-friendly environment and confidence has improved," said Matthew Peron, head of global equities at Northern Trust Asset Management.
Some investors remain cautious, however, noting stocks are getting expensive. Companies in the S&P 500 traded at about 22 times their past 12 months of earnings as of Wednesday, above their 10-year average of 15.8, according to FactSet.
"It feels to me like the market is pricing in a lot more optimism than it should be," said David Lafferty, chief strategist at Natixis Global Asset Management.
Gains in oil prices helped lift shares of energy companies Thursday. The S&P 500 energy sector rose 0.5%, with Transocean and National Oilwell Varco posting some of the biggest advances. Gains in Exxon Mobil and Chevron helped keep the Dow industrials in positive territory.
U.S. crude oil jumped 1.6% to $54.45 a barrel as data showed major oil producers have largely kept their promise to reduce output and tackle a global supply glut.
Shares of industrial companies fell 0.8% in the S&P 500, weighing on the index. United Rentals fell 5.6%.
Government bonds and their stock-market proxies gained.
The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note edged lower to 2.388%, according to Tradeweb, from 2.416% Wednesday. Yields fall as bond prices rise.
Shares of utilities companies in the S&P 500, often considered bondlike stocks because of their dividends, rose 1.1%.
The dollar pulled back for a second session. The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against a basket of 16 currencies, was recently down 0.3%.
Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 index slipped 0.1%.
Japan's Nikkei ended flat and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 0.4%, weighed by a decline in bank shares.
Write to Riva Gold at firstname.lastname@example.org and Akane Otani at email@example.com