Unemployment claims fell and manufacturing surged in the mid-Atlantic region.
Morgan Stanley rose 4 per cent to $27.70 after reporting sharply higher earnings and a share buyback. Energy stocks jumped after oil shot to a 16-month high.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 78 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 15,548 Thursday, led by UnitedHealth Group and IBM.
The Standard & Poor's 500 rose eight, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,689.
The Nasdaq edged up a point to 3,611, held back by Intel and eBay, which reported disappointing results.
Two stocks rose for every one that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was average at 3.4 billion shares.