Stock Market Today: Giddy Up, Growth! Tech and Comms Lead Gains

The technology and communication services sectors set the pace Thursday amid broad gains sparked by another pandemic low in unemployment filings.

Concept art of technology and communications
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The pendulum swung in the bulls' direction Thursday amid a couple of rosy economic data releases.

The spotlight belonged to new weekly unemployment claims, which yet again set a fresh pandemic-era low of 444,000 during the week ended May 15, down 34,000 filings from a week prior and below analysts' expectations.

Also, the Conference Board Leading Economic Index, which is used to gauge the direction of economic activity, improved 1.6% month-over-month in April, marking its best improvement since July 2020.

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"The U.S. economic recovery is now in full swing," says Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at registered investment advisor and broker-dealer LPL Financial. "Despite the natural challenges of ramping back up, the recovery still seems capable of providing upside surprises."

Growthier sectors such as technology and communication services stocks, which have lagged of late, sprung to life, with Netflix (NFLX (opens in new tab), +2.9%), Nvidia (NVDA (opens in new tab), +3.9%) and Adobe (ADBE (opens in new tab), +2.3%) helping to propel the Nasdaq Composite 1.8% higher to 13,535.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.6% to 34,084) and S&P 500 (+1.1% to 4,159) also finished in the black.

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Other action in the stock market today:

  • The small-cap Russell 2000 improved by 0.6% to 2,207.
  • Snap (SNAP (opens in new tab), +5.9%) was a big winner after the Snapchat parent said it reached 500 million monthly active users. It was the first time the social media name released this metric, previously delivering updates solely on its daily active users. This was just one of a slew of headlines coming out of the company's 2021 Snap Partner Summit, with others including news on the company's push into e-commerce (opens in new tab).
  • Among stocks that didn't gain ground today was Ralph Lauren (RL (opens in new tab), -7.0%), which plunged despite the retailer's strong fiscal fourth-quarter earnings report. RL unveiled an unexpected adjusted profit in the first three months of the year and higher-than-anticipated revenues, as well as a reinstated quarterly dividend payment and potential plans for more store closings.
  • U.S. crude oil futures fell for a third straight day on expectations that the global supply of crude could build if nuclear deal talks between the U.S. and Iran progress. At the close, futures were off 2.2% to $61.94 per barrel.
  • Gold futures extended their daily win streak to six – the longest such stretch of the year – eking out a marginal gain to settle at $1,881.90 an ounce.
  • The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) retreated by 7.1% to 20.60.
  • Bitcoin rebounded 3.4% to $40,480.14. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)

stock chart for 052021

(Image credit: YCharts)

Big-Time Stocks, Big-Time Growth

We frequently analyze larger publicly traded companies because of the numerous perks they provide to investors who keep their eye on the retirement ball.

They're typically less volatile than their smaller brethren, which provides a psychological advantage – one that helps investors keep a steady hand and avoid self-inflicted wounds in the face of market turbulence.

They also tend to be more financially stable, which allows them to dole out regular dividends that form the backbone of many retirement accounts. It's no accident that the market's most reliable dividend payers, and most of our favorite income-producing retirement stocks, are typically companies valued in tens (or hundreds) of billions.

But typecast large-cap stocks at your own peril – they can deliver potent price gains, too.

While shares of most companies are trying to catch their breath at elevated levels, a number of blue-chip stocks are expected to resume climbing the mountaintop. If you're trying to identify growth opportunities but don't want to crank up the risk dial too far, consider the following batch of five large-cap stocks with price targets implying returns of at least 20% by this time next year.

Kyle Woodley was long NVDA as of this writing.

Kyle Woodley

Kyle Woodley is the Editor-in-Chief of Young and The Invested (opens in new tab), a site dedicated to improving the personal finances and financial literacy of parents and children. He also writes the weekly The Weekend Tea (opens in new tab) newsletter, which covers both news and analysis about spending, saving, investing, the economy and more.

Kyle was previously the Senior Investing Editor for, and the Managing Editor for before that. His work has appeared in several outlets, including Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, Barchart, The Globe & Mail and the Nasdaq. He also has appeared as a guest on Fox Business Network and Money Radio, among other shows and podcasts, and he has been quoted in several outlets, including MarketWatch, Vice and Univision. He is a proud graduate of The Ohio State University, where he earned a BA in journalism. 

You can check out his thoughts on the markets (and more) at @KyleWoodley (opens in new tab).