The S&P/TSX composite index rose 77.92 points to 12,455.82 while the TSX Venture Exchange added 7.17 points to 1,601.52.
The Canadian dollar was up 0.09 of a cent to 100.79 cents US.
U.S. markets were also higher amid data showing that fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week, adding to signs that the job market is strengthening.
The Dow Jones industrials rose 58.66 points to 13,252.76.
The Nasdaq composite index gained 15.64 points to 3,056.37 and the S&P 500 index was up 8.32 points to 1,402.6.
The U.S. Labour Department said weekly unemployment benefit applications dropped 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 351,000. That matches a four-year low reached last month. The four-week average, which smooths fluctuations, was unchanged at 355,750.
Also, the Empire State manufacturing index ran ahead to a 21-month high of 20.2 in March, from 19.5 in February.
The details of the survey of manufacturing in New York weren't quite as encouraging, however, with the new orders and shipments indices both dropping back.
However, there was a rise in the employment index and a marked improvement in the average work week index.
And the manufacturing survey from the Philadelphia branch of the U.S. Federal Reserve rose to a higher than expected 12.5 in March, up from 10.2 in February.
"I’m not saying it’s right, but confidence is building (that) there is a self-sustaining recovery that is going on in the U.S.," said Jim Muir, director at Fraser Mackenzie.
"If that comes to bear, then a lot of worries are off investors’ backs."
In Toront, the industrials sector climbed 1.36 per cent with Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR) ahead $1.50 to $79.17 while Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) improved by $1.59 to $76.92.
The financials sector was also supportive, up 1.07 per cent as Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) moved up $1.12 to $55.35 while Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO) climbed 53 cents to $58.96.
The gold sector was up 0.27 per cent as bullion prices improved after sustaining sharp losses this week amid a solid U.S. retail sales report for February and a positive economic outlook by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
"The pushers of gold have been the fragility of the whole economy and people were using gold as a bit of a safety net," Muir said.
"And all of a sudden you say, you have a self-sustaining economic recovery and you don’t need further stimulus, and you don’t have inflation perking up like you thought and you think maybe gold isn’t where you want to be after all."
The April contract for bullion on the Nymex climbed $16.60 to US$1,659.50 an ounce. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) gained 66 cents to C$43.54.
Metal prices also advanced with May copper up five cents to US$3.90 a pound. The base metals sector was up 0.56 per cent and Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) rose 39 cents to C$35.54 and Sherritt International (TSX:S) rose 20 cents to $5.78.
The latest batch of positive U.S. data had earlier sent crude prices higher but the April contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange ended the session down 32 cents at US$105.11 a barrel.
Prices dipped amid reports that the U.S. and Britain had agreed to release oil from government-controlled emergency reserves. A White House official later said those reports were inaccurate.
The energy sector was ahead 0.19 per cent and Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO) rose 39 cents to C$45.70.
Trading in shares of Viterra Inc. (TSX:VT), Canada's largest publicly traded grain handler, were halted prior to its announcement that the company's board has established a process to review potential takeover offers. It acknowledged that there have been expressions of interest but provided no detail.
Based on Wednesday's closing price of $14.65 per share, Viterra is currently worth about $5.4 billion although many market observers say the price could go higher if there is a bidding war for the company. Its shares jumped $1.44 or 9.83 per cent to $16.09.
In earnings news, media company Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.B) reported that profits grew 83 per cent to $85.4 million or $1.34 per share in the fourth quarter, led by strength in its telecommunications division.
Adjusted income from continuing operations declined to $55.6 million in the fourth quarter, or 87 cents per share, falling short of analyst expectations for 89 cents per share, according to a poll by Thomson Reuters. Quebecor also said that it's ready and able to move ahead with plans that would bring a National Hockey League team to Quebec City. Its shares dipped 37 cents to $35.93.
Tour operator Transat A.T. Inc. (TSX:TRZ.B) said quarterly losses grew to $29.5 million, or 77 cents per share, compared to a loss of $13.4 million, or 35 cents per share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, after-tax losses were 79 cents per share, higher than the 61 cents expected by analysts. Revenue increased to $829.3 million from $810.2 million and its shares were down one cent to $6.49.
Elsewhere on the corporate front, the Quebec securities regulator said it intends to approve a takeover offer for TMX Group Inc. (TSX:X), the company that operates the Toronto Stock Exchange, by the Maple Group consortium of financial institutions. TMX Group shares rose $1.34 to $45.09.