Stock futures were flat Thursday as the S&P 500 approached its best first-quarter performance in five years. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 21 points, or 0.05%. S&P 500 futures inched lower by 0.1%, while Nasdaq 100 futures declined 0.1%. For the quarter, the S&P 500 is up about 10%. It is on pace for its best first-quarter gain since 2019, when it rallied 13.1%. The 30-stock Dow, up 5.5% during the period, is tracking for its strongest first-quarter performance since 2021 when it advanced 7.4%. The Nasdaq is up 9.3% in the quarter thus far. On a monthly basis, the S&P 500 is up 3%. The Nasdaq and the Dow are both pacing for advances of more than 1.9%. Driving the gains this quarter and month has been Nvidia, last year’s market leader, as the artificial intelligence craze shows no signs of slowing. The stock is up 82% for the quarter and 14% in March alone. The early 2024 rally lifted the major U.S. stock benchmarks to record highs. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 jumped to a fresh all-time closing high. “You’ve got a combination of things that are happening with a calendar and a slow news week, with the largest piece of data coming out on Friday when the market’s closed, so you’ve got investors that feel invigorated and a more risk-on attitude seems to be driving markets,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth. On Thursday, initial filings for unemployment insurance for the week ended March 16 came in at 210,000, slightly lower than the 211,000 that economists surveyed by Dow Jones had predicted. Investors on Thursday are also awaiting data on jobless gross domestic product and consumer sentiment. Although the market will be closed due to Good Friday, economic data tied to personal income, consumer spending and personal consumption expenditures will be released that day. In corporate news, shares of luxury home furnishings retailer RH jumped 8% after management indicated that demand trends are expected to accelerate throughout fiscal 2024. Nevertheless, the company missed estimates in its latest quarter and issued a weak outlook for the first quarter. U.S. Treasury yields climbed on Thursday as investors considered the path ahead for interest rates following the latest comments from Federal Reserve officials and ahead of key economic data. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was close to 3 basis points higher at 4.222%. The 2-year Treasury yield was last up by 5 basis points at 4.62%. Japan stocks fell the most among Asian markets Thursday, while Australian stocks hit a record high, helped by a boost from mining shares. The Japanese yen remained near 34-year lows. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.46% to 40,168.07, while the broader Topix shed 1.73% to close at 2,750.81. The Japanese yen was trading at 151.41 against the dollar a day after hitting 151.97 — its weakest level against the greenback in 34 years. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.99% higher at 7,896.90 after hitting an intraday record high of 7,901.20. The index was higher for a second straight day. Heavyweight miners rose including Rio Tinto up 0.7% and BHP Group up 1.4%. China’s CSI 300 rose about 0.52% at 3,520.96. It was reported that China’s central bank may restart treasury bond buying, a monetary policy tool it has not used in more than two decades. South Korea’s Kospi ended 0.3% lower at 2,745.82. The smaller cap Kosdaq dipped 0.13% to 910.05. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 1%, with the Hang Seng tech index up 2.5%. Global oil prices edged up on Thursday, recovering from two consecutive sessions of decline, as investors reassessed the latest U.S. crude oil and gasoline inventories data and returned to buying mode. Brent crude futures for May were up 29 cents, or 0.34%, at $86.38 a barrel while the more actively traded June contract rose 28 cents, or 0.33%, to $85.69 at 0041 GMT. The May contract expires on Thursday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures for May delivery were up 41 cents, or 0.50%, to $81.76 a barrel. Gold rose on Thursday, bound for its biggest monthly rise since November 2022 after a blistering rally fueled by bets for U.S. interest rate cuts, strong safe-haven demand and central bank buying. Spot gold was last up 0.67% at $2,208.83 per ounce, on track for a monthly gain of about 8% and a second straight quarterly rise. U.S. gold futures edged 0.77% higher to $2,208.8787.