NEW YORK - Investors cannot seem to get the stock market rally back up to full speed.
Stocks closed mostly higher, but down from their highs of the day yesterday after three straight days of losses. Investors piled back into financial and health-care companies and moved out of industries such as technology that had been leading the market.
Several upbeat economic reports encouraged investors.
A private research group said its forecast of economic activity rose more than expected in May, marking a second straight gain after seven months of declines.
And the government said the overall number of people drawing jobless benefits fell last week for the first time since early January. The drop broke a string of 21 straight increases. Separately, the Philadelphia Reserve Bank said manufacturing activity picked up in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The reports helped reassure investors that a recovery is still emerging. But analysts caution that there may still be more air to be let out of the market's huge advance since early March.
The Dow Jones industrials rose 58.42, or 0.69 percent, to 8,555.60. The S&P 500 index rose 7.66, or 0.84 percent, to 918.37, while the Nasdaq composite index slipped 0.34, or 0.02 percent, to 1,807.72.
Shares of major banks rose as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appeared before the Senate Banking Committee, defending the regulatory overhaul announced the day before by President Obama.
Among financial stocks, shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co. added $1.44, or 4.40 percent, to $34.17, while Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s shares gained $3.36, or 2.40 percent, to $143.09.
Health-care shares added to gains made Wednesday as the Senate continued work on a major revamp of the health-care system. Shares of drugmaker Pfizer Inc. rose 34 cents, or 2.33 percent, to $14.92, while Merck & Co. Inc.'s shares jumped 88 cents, or 3.55 percent, to $25.65.